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March 12, 2008

Comments

drew Roberts

First, set us free. Let us go and invest in foreign markets freely. let us own foriegn currencies. get rid of the restrictions on our own people.

Then let's talk.

all the best,

drew
http://zotzbro.blogspot.com/

EB Christen

Spot on as always... loved the comment about breakfast on the job... just priceless really... it kind of sums it all up.

Bahamians need to choose to fight for their own country, not by making noise, but by applying themselves. Nobody would hire a foreigner in a bank if a Bahamian could read and write fluently, do math properly, speak two languages, be punctual and professional - foreigners cost a company a hell of a lot more. What is so often labeled as prejudice or foreign elitism, is more often than not just the truth of a global world staring us in the face. It is up to us, it always has been and it always will be. The choice is something each and every Bahamian must make. To educate oneself, or not.

To continue to fail to make the right choice is to surrender that very same precious birth right that being Bahamian should bestow. Stop wanting something for nothing! There is literally nothing free in this world.

C.Lowe

So, the chickens are coming home to roost. What did we expect otherwise?
We already have foreign intrusion into supposed "reserved for Bahamian" catagories of business,
and let's face it, Bahamianization
was never legislated, just a "policy" so to hide behind that is fool hardy at best.
On an individual level, all we can do is improve our customer service, efficiencies, logistics, and invest in our human value, so that when we face this pressure in our business sectors, we can
A) compet, even if only for a measured time,
B) look attractive for investment/partnership
or at worst
C) be the last to go under.
By the way, the government, could consider mitigating our demise, by offering some of these marvelous consessions to Bahamian for profit companies, along the lines of those given to non Bahamian for profit companies.
But I forgot, that would be unconstitutional wouldn't it?
To give to some, but not others.....

drew Roberts

I don't see why we should be surprised that Bahamians want their government to protect them from foreign competition in our country, our government protects those same foreigners from us competing with them in their countries.

As long as they put barriers in our way to keep us from competing on an even footing with foreigners in the big markets, we will always be at a huge disadvantage.

Let's say a Bahamian happens to get 1% of a startup Bahamian company. What's the maximum upside for them if that small company grows up to equal the largest Bahamian company to date?

Now, let's say a Bahamian happens to get 1% of a startup U.S. company. What's the maximum upside for them if that small company grows up to equal the largest U.S. company to date?

Set us Free. Stop messing about.

all the best,

drew
http://zotzbro.blogspot.com/2008/02/wild-idea-opt-in-income-tax-for-bahamas.html
Wild Idea - Opt In Income Tax For The Bahamas

Bill

Hi Larry,

Nice article as usual. There are a few things with the "sentiment" in relation to the actuality of the nature of the Bahamian economy; I would love to address- both with Hank Fergusson and the latter, with the truth about the Bahamian economy.

1. I am forever queasy when I hear a pseudo academic, like Mr. Fergusson, prattle on about the need to modernize and neglect the economic gains or losses- in particular regards to trade agreements. I always dismiss these folks as bourgeoisie, void of the understanding of the total impact of trade agreements to the entire economy, and, un-imaginative on how to work your position for the best. For example, for him to say, that any government, signed onto an agreement to "modernize" and "push us forward, faster and for the better" (in so many words) when wrapped in the sentiment, he realizes the deficiency in that very same body-politics’ leadership to bind itself to a commitment to move forward progressively for the better of that country, makes Mr. Fergusson sound as if he is merely repeating what he heard on a Starbucks coffee shop date.

We can't argue effectively economic gain, from someone's personal feeling on how far he thinks the Bahamas has come and has to go. His position is biased and he is not speaking the total truth- not that we want to hear anything else from him in any event.

Now, on to the Bahamian economy: You do know that wages in this country, has NOT kept up with inflation. In fact, real wages in this country has not moved since the mid-90s- would be my best guess. Civil service jobs are GROSSLY underpaid. Anyone who says anything other has not worked in the civil service and does not have a family member, or friend, who works in the civil service or has worked in the civil service in the last 4-5 years.

Private firms, have been bound by lack of innovation in our market- this is the only part of Hank Fergusson's argument, that I can agree with. But, globalization would not ensure that Bahamians would benefit from the innovation and increased growth in the services- especially if we import new labour to meet the demand for jobs. Skilled labour, with the right to migrate. Dear God...I HOPE, we have NOT signed the agreement on services yet.

That being said, inflation is the key issue in this country. Now, we have to ask ourselves; where is the inflationary pressure coming from? Is it demand pull, cost push etc...??

The question is not so simple. Fact is, our inflationary prices are brought in over the border- prices of imported goods, in particular, are higher than usual- this then works into services, as service workers, need to ask for higher paying jobs, to meet the new living demand. If you have not noticed, there has been a lot of job shifting in this economy on the last 5 years- some people move so much, they even move back to their old jobs- I hope not by mistake...hehehhehe...

Back to the topic:

Governments, in the developing world, have got to adjust their wages to meet the new inflationary distortion, brought on by increased demand in goods, from the emerging economies.

Wages have got to go UP, and not just remain status quo- certainly we should have no job cuts and a push downward in wages. No matter how much dem lazy civil servants does get in ya craw. We need enforcement of the rules and not a letting of blood. Cutting staff, has and always will be, a failure to innovate and, in our case, a failure to execute services in an efficient manner. The problem is not the ordinary worker or the line staff- it's with the leadership's lack of commitment on making sure the government services operations, are functioning.

If it were, neither you, nor I, should have a problem with the lousy service. To be honest, the private sector is TWICE as lousy as government. I can and many can attest to this. Cable Bahamas is one of them.

It's about time we forget this free market mantra- and take control of this economy. We need a plan...so far, I have not seen one.

Best,

Bill

Bob Knaus

Kalik. Globalization 101 for Bahamians.

It's made in Nassau, protected by the Bahamian government. Drove Beck's Clear out of the islands... note the similarity of the label design.

Who benefits? The Bahamian investors and factory workers; also the brewmasters from Heineken who help run the factory.

Who pays? Bahamian beer drinkers! What other tropical island has such high priced beer?

If you do the math, the higher costs of beer to the consumer add up to more than the higher incomes of the factory workers and owners.

This lesson can be generalized to all sectors of the economy. Free trade will always, in the long run, benefit Bahamian consumers more than it will hurt Bahamian workers.

Will free trade, or protectionism, make Bahamians happier? If you think people's happiness depends on trade policy... then you have a strange view of humanity :)


P.S. What is this new Sands brew from Freeport? FNM beer? Tastes bland!

larry smith

Well, I don't quite know what your main point was, Bill, but I beg to differ on the topic of wages vs productivity.

I have run my own small business in Nassau for a quarter century, and before that I was someone else's employee for about a dozen years.

In 2003 I spent a year in the GM's chair at the Nassau Guardian, and since last June I have been on the board of the Broadcasting Corporation.

I have also had to deal with the Bahamian civil service and public corps for decades as a customer/supplicant. So I do have some idea of what goes on in our economy.

There is a consensus that the public sector is grossly overstaffed. Bahamians prefer a position in the public sector because it affords them job security with the ability to do their own thing on the side.

Public sector employees get union- and voter-driven pay increases at least once in every political cycle, which provide for multi-year increments.

A consensus also exists that public corporations and government agencies are grossly inefficient, and routinely suffer from political interference primarily for purposes of employment.

I can confirm this from personal experience at the Broadcasting Corporation.

The point I was making in the article was that wages often do not track productivity in the Bahamas, meaning it matters little whether you show up for work or not in the public sector. There are no consequences and you still get paid.

This lack of productivity extends into the private sector as well. But as for the example you gave about the private sector being twice as lousy as the public sector
- surely you jest?

No matter what complaints you may harbour against Cable Bahamas, there is simply no comparison with the service offered by BTC. You do have SOME recourse at Cable Bahamas.

And finally, you can't enforce rules unless there are consequences - and there are none in our closed little society. That's why the crime rate is spiralling out of control.

Bill

Last one first:

Larry:
The first point is that your "feelings" does not equal to "what's faithfully congruent"...the issue with the civil service, is that it is overstaffed in non-essential jobs. More janitresses and filing clerks, over professionally paid staff. There are more clerks and junior staff, because there is no path to upward mobility in the civil service- this is government leadership fault. One in which we have to address.

In many cases, we don't have enough trained man-power to do the work we need. For example, the Dept of Statistics, have not produced any thing of note for the last 10 years. This is a man-power and human resource issue. Managing human resources is not the job or fault of the line staff, but the job of the bureaucratic leadership, which ends up in the Minister's and board members laps!

The "consensus" you base your argument on, is based on false information and built on an irrational fear and the understanding of that irrational fear, that we are overstaffed- hence the tax payers, who don’t know any better than to not buy into the propaganda, up and support anything to get back and them filthy, stinky, lazy gubment woikah’s. That is not true. While we may have on some extra weight, we are not nearly getting the job done the way we should- this is due to a lack of true manpower and lack of true organizational initiatives. Also, with an economy like this, where the private sector is slow and the leadership within, is out of step with the real world, I expect for government to put people to work.

Firing them, especially in this economy, is marching people to their deaths- especially when we have no exit plan for them. And also, when sending them home, would create an administrative nightmare. The former FNM administration tried it before- teachers and BTC- and they had to bring people back to work, who it gave pay out packages to because they found out that they could NOT do the type of work, that was needed, to provide keen services.

The teachers debacle, probably set education back by 15 years- because it sent trained human resources, out of the system, and left the system to the device of inexperienced staff...you finish the rest.

We have to think carefully when we start screaming for FIRING DEESE LAZY GUBMENT WORKERS...as much as it may pain you to bear, we need them.

Bob Knaus:

(Second point for Larry) I’m a proponent of “free trade”...but, forced tariff arrangements, and, the prying open of foreign markets for the sake of the exporter, is not free trade and is against the necessity for domestic development- forget about even sovereignty for the moment. If we practiced true free trade, we should worry about security of transportation of goods, and not forced tariff rates for any industry. Free Trade is not even practiced by the US- the Byrd Amendment fairly recently. And, not even by the EU- the shutting out of Boeing from defense contracts in the region and their subsequent contract with the US Air force, causing and up-roar as we speak.

Becks left because it tastes horrible. Heineken is the beer of choice and so is Guinness, a close second. Old Milwaukee and Budweiser are other beers that enjoy the same price as Heineken and Guinness, both domestically brewed, but have not caught on because they taste a little off...

No beer drinker worth his hops would come near a Kalik, when he can pay 50c more for a decent beer...Heineken.

The second point of factory workers benefitting, does not add up to or relates to Kalik, being the beer that drove out Becks....Because, we WANT the factory workers to get paid. I WANT factory jobs to remain at a production advantage. Kalik beer is reasonably priced. How much do you expect to pay for a beer? In fact, Kalik is for about a dollar in Miami the last time I checked- Becks, costs a little more. The fact that they are exporting Kalik, shows you that they can make profit and compete- they have been doing just that. People still have not been drinking Becks and that’s a fact jack.

But, what I am saying is, we have a local distribution price on our own goods and we sell it across the border for even cheaper.

Kalik is where it is...saying that allowing for a forced reduction in tariffs, when we gain most of our revenue from tariffs, to suit free entry of goods, goods we are not sure to even buy and like, reduces tariffs off of goods to suit exactly who and what purpose? From this angle, it is a waste of time and money for nothing. It is not on sound economic principle or true trade for profit.

Why would you want to put out of work, a Bahamian based Brewery, for a nastier tasting beer, we have no price control over in the global market?

Also, Heineken, who helps run the factory, is part of the reason why globalization is out of whack on many aspects. So, you would like for Heineken, to continue to get the concessions it enjoys, while charging more for its beer, in the Bahamas?

The arguments are inconsistent. Free Trade, the way it is bandied about, is a farce and should be changed to something else- more on the line of smart trade.

As said, no one would drink a Kalik, when there is a Heineken...the preference does not add up to the issue of price and competition.

As for the Sands beer, if it is FNM/PLP or BDM, if it sucks...then it will fail. No tariff rate change can save it!

Bill

p.s.
Red stripe is also sold at a low price, but the quality is 100x worse than Kalik, but they sell more due to fantastic marketing. Support Kalik, even though it tastes like embalming fluid!

Bill

Larry,

Just to add some notes on Cable Bahamas vs. BTC in service for internet.

I have used both. Cable Bahamas has a habit of going down ALL THE TIME- one Saturday afternoon, it went down for 12 hours. It has been a bit better as of late- but- BTC has NEVER gone down 12 hours on a stretch and, certainly not down more than 2 days in a row.

Living abroad for a considerable amount of time, I was at my complete wits end, trying to get communicae back to home base, but, could not get through because internet is down. Wasting money on phone cards, when internet should do. I know what service is and was, during BTC and when my family switched. Trust me, I never talked to my family via the internet, LESS.

Also, searching using Cable Bahamas, is a total pain. Many times you don't get your pages to open. That's due to their servers...BTC has never treated me like that. Also, their collections and revenue process is more than highway robbery. In fact, it borders on criminal. $40.00 for re-connection is absolute thievery...in fact, someone should check that. Especially if cable tv services and internet services, are to be con-joined.

Also, there is this idea that you pay less for Cable Bahamas. You pay almost the same thing- considering the service you get in my point. Cable Bahamas has terrible Customer Service staff, also, their corporate board is VERY unprofessional. I had a meeting with a lady and twice, she cancelled- one time I was waiting outside of her office, for her to say she had something else to do. Also, their call centre is a nice touch- but- their tech staff is very "hand off"...HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH....

The staff at Cable Bahamas are accustomed to people needing their service. BTC is not nearly as bad. In fact, I have not had a complaint to bear at BTC in a long, longgggg time.

Cable Bahamas programing is a bit soft as well. I don't know if it has to do with Christian Council, but, watching Cable TV in the US and in the UK, trust me, Cable Bahamas is slightly off- but, it has gotten allot better in the last 2-3 years.

While we may think Cable Bahamas is hot stuff, we have no other Cable company locally to compare it to. I wonder why?

Needless to say, I would never promote crap service in Cable Bahamas especially when I have seen and used better. No matter how sexy saying "we have coral wave" sounds!

Bill.

drew Roberts

Larry:

"This lack of productivity extends into the private sector as well. And as for the example you gave about the private sector being twice as lousy as the public sector
- surely you jest?"

Even if it was true, the government was being compared to a government granted monopoly.

The private sector has its problems but...

all the best,

drew

drew Roberts

Bill,

I would not doubt that there can be government departments that are understaffed or incorrectly staffed.

I do thing that our percentage of government workers is way to high. I do think that this messes with our democracy in a bad way.

I do think that for certain jobs at least, government workers make better than at least some of their counterparts in the private sector. And get better benefits and more besides.

"That is not true. While we may have on some extra weight, we are not nearly getting the job done the way we should- this is due to a lack of true manpower and lack of true organizational initiatives."

I think that at least in some places, this is due to over staffing. Putting too many people to do a job can make things go slower than if less were trying to do the work.

I think we both have issues with this so called Free Trade. I may be in favour of real Free Trade, but I am not in favour of the fake thing.

"There are more clerks and junior staff, because there is no path to upward mobility in the civil service- this is government leadership fault. One in which we have to address."

While it matters whose fault it is from some angles, from the position of a working taxpayer who often gets shoddy service, what does it matter who's fault it is if it is not going to get fixed?

Now, if we can fix the problems...

all the best,

drew

drew Roberts

Bill:

"but- BTC has NEVER gone down 12 hours on a stretch and, certainly not down more than 2 days in a row."

BTC has a lot to earn back with some of us.

I was running a family business a long time ago. Location: Collins Avenue.

My phones went out. It took 45 days of daily (well, I tried, some days I could not bring myself to waste my time and I took weekends off) calling before the first repair man paid a visit and way longer (I think 60 plus days) before I had phone service again. Granted, that was a long time ago.

Just this year though, a truck came down my street and pulled down my phone wire. A low wire that should have been raised before. We called saying our phone was out.

It took weeks before BTC came by and ran a new wire for me. Luckily, I had found some old wire by the side of the road and spliced it in myself and tied the thing back up with some string from the recent road paving project so that I was only without phone service for a few days.

That said, I will not try and defend Cable Bahamas either. To me, they also suffer from monopoly issues. And I seriously dislike that I have to pay for TV to get internet.

At least they give you an actual IP address though. I have seen friends on BTC getting private addresses.

all the best,

drew
http://zotzbro.blogspot.com/

Bill

Hi Drew,

First post:

The main point you made; "we need to fix the issues, over finding who's at fault". Finding what exactly is the fault, is how we begin fixing the problem for the long term.

You want me to keep it straight up with you? Everytime I hear "cutting staff", my mind runs directly on some fat cat appointed board member, or, the top civil servants, sharing up the extra fluff they created by firing everyone else- with loss of productivity to boot.

Second post:
As for your run in with BTC....I think we all have issues with service in private and public. But, in this case, the private market would not secure better service over government services all the time.

Bill.

drew Roberts

Hey Bill,

I like people to be straight up.

If that is the plan for cutting staff, I can see why you would not be in agreement with it.

How about we cut some fat cats? Some of the overstocked janitors and file clerks you mention? How about we get some more productive workers if we need them?

While a private market monopoly might do a little better or a little worse, I would expect monopolies to behave badly overall, be they government or private monopolies.

I would be happy to continue in a civil discourse with you on these matters and see if we can explore and perhaps learn something from it.

all the best,

drew

Bob Knaus

Bill...

Let me try again. I chose "beer" because it's an easy example that most people can relate to. Most people drink beer to relax and get happy and buzzed. If you don't think so... have another beer.

In Miami, Bud costs $12 a case. So do most other canned beers in the moderate end of the price range.

In the Bahamas, beer is $36 a case, whether you buy Kalik or Bud or Heinekin.

This proves that markets set prices.

Think about the number of Bahamiams who drink beer. Think about the number of Bahamians who work at a beer factory. Ask yourself if paying 3 times the amount for beer is really worth it to the nation for having some beer factory jobs.

Let me know what you think.

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