Has The PLP’s Dream Boat Finally Run Aground?
The hollow announcement on BTC and the attainment of the much sought after two per cent – or lack of attainment of the same – is representative of the derailment of the PLP’s dream-selling express.
What a sad attempt to save face!
According to a release on C & W’s website:
“The BTC Foundation will be funded through the contribution by CWC of a 2 per cent economic interest in BTC. The 2 per cent shareholding will not be entitled to any voting rights and therefore CWC will retain majority voting rights in BTC as well as remaining the largest overall shareholder. CWC will also maintain management and Board control of the business, and as a consequence continue to consolidate BTC’s financial results.”
According to their web page, Phil Bentley, the new Chief Executive of CWC, said:
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Government to create the BTC Foundation. From the start of our partnership with the Government three years ago, we have been proud for BTC to support good causes for the Bahamian people. Establishing the BTC Foundation enables us to add significantly to the support we provide the community through investments in projects aimed at increasing and improving access to, and enjoyment of, telecommunications technology as well as other important civic projects.”
So, as far as C & W is concerned, the government didn’t take back anything and they have merely reached “an agreement with the Government of The Bahamas to establish a charitable foundation dedicated to investing in projects for the benefit of Bahamians.” And that is that. So, why is there this blatant attempt to disrespect and fool the Bahamian people of the part of the government?
So, why is the government attempting to fool the Bahamian people? What the heck did they gain by all this flim-flam, by all this glib, non-achieving hogwash?
One of the worst parts about this misadventure is that they announced this non-achievement with so much fanfare, perhaps hoping to dupe the public with crafty public relations and other gimmicks. I guess, if we saw the lights, the cameras and all the action, we would say “wowwwwww, ya did good……though you achieved zilch.”
So, prima facie, the baby (recall the Biblical story) was cut into half, right? No! It was a very unfortunate and disrespectful announcement made by the government the other night particularly the shares moved into the BTC Foundation will, according to CWC, “be funded through the contribution by CWC of a two per cent economic interest” and could ultimately, most likely be controlled by them. No matter how the Christie administration slices it, CWC maintains more shares than the government with 49 point something-something per cent versus the government’s flat 49 per cent that remains unchanged.
Prime Minister Perry Christie, whilst on the campaign trail, promised to regain the majority of shares in BTC. Now, he’s talking about regaining the majority economic interest. Has anyone ever previously heard this new, exaggerated nonsense referred to as “the majority economic interest”?
I spoke to several friends about the BTC “deal” and on Thursday night, sought the perspective of most of the most articulate among them about this new phrase and so-called take-back. Dr Duane Sands, noted cardiovascular surgeon and a politician himself said in response to me:
“What the hell is that? Is it the majority of shares? No! They really take Bahamians for jackasses!”
As a Bahamian, I am offended and ashamed by this level of incompetency.
So, it seems that this entire charade before the cameras the other night was mere smoke and mirrors. All of the speeches and campaign promises are absolute bunkum. Insincere malarkey!
How does one figure that an equal 49 per cent shareholding and C and W continuing to hold managerial and operational clout mean that the government has taken back anything? What is the win-win situation in that? How exactly was the majority economic interest regained? How?
The escrow account or trust fund or whatever they’ll call it next week—which holds the BTC Foundation’s shares—is merely representative of slick, sleight of hand. BTC has always made contributions to the culture and arts, to junkanoo and sporting activities and to charities. In the past, such contributions came from BTC’s PR budget and so all this proposed Foundation represents is an account that separates and holds the monies that BTC always donated to charitable causes, festivals and other events. Nothing more!
And so, who has oversight of this “Foundation” which is proposed to manage the trust fund and any shares and dividends arising from the same? We can only imagine the answers as we have yet to receive any concrete details. Is this just another attempt to create a slush fund?
Frankly, since the general election in 2012, there is a long line of failure after failure. If I had to write a children’s bedtime story on the administration’s performance so far—to read to my four-year-old son— I’d title it “The Non-Achieving Bears” and I have no doubt that such a read would be disappointingly nightmarish.
Could Mr Christie also tell me when I could purchase shares in BTC as was promised by the former government? I’d like to purchase shares, as would many other Bahamians.
It seems that there are certain PLPs who are eating crow after the recent BTC “deal”, hurriedly back pedalling on statements made about CWC with pursed lips.
Lead negotiator Franklyn Wilson previously told a local daily that: “There is no question. That is why I said this was a horrendously bad deal.” He said that his committee’s findings led to them recommending to the Prime Minister that an investigation be conducted into the controversial 2011 sale of the majority shares in BTC to CWC by a parliamentary select committee.
Mr. Wilson is reported to have said: “I am not sure the media specifically made note of the fact that a parliamentary committee with powers to send for persons and papers is a very, very significant instrument.” He also noted then that the former Hubert Ingraham-led FNM administration would have many opportunities to defend itself and their decision-making before such a committee.
Now Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis also promised voters—whilst on the campaign trail—that he would press for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to look into the BTC sale within 100 days of them winning the general election. They did and, just as with Mr Wilson’s proposed select committee, neither a committee nor a commission of inquiry materialized.
What’s more, PLP Senator Frank Smith—whilst on his feet in the Senate—claimed that Cable and Wireless had raped the Bahamian people. And so, how does one reconcile the current love fest between the administration and CWC who, according to Mr Wilson, is a great company.
The current administration campaigned on a platform known as the Charter for Governance which served as the basis for their electoral victory and, as in the George Orwell book Animal Farm, is evolving daily into something other than that which was initially proffered. The administration has seemingly backtracked from many of the positions espoused in its Charter for Governance—from the 100-day promises to many others. One need only read page 11 of the Charter to draw that conclusion.
In the literary classic Animal Farm, there was an ever emerging set of commandments, which gradually entrenched this notion that the ruling class was superior. The commandments emerged from one of equality to gradually evolving to accommodate the greedy pigs’ attempt to engage in excesses to finally becoming one commandment, which stated that “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” Frankly, Bahamians are beginning to feel this way about the tactics and approaches of the current administration.
Dr Sands said: “In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the animals originally overthrew farmer Jones and came up with a number of laws. Over time, the laws were changed by the pigs. The animals were told—and convinced— that this is what they came up with at the very beginning. What you’re watching in that press conference is revisionist history. For Franklyn Wilson to say how great Cable and Wireless is when he was adamant about suspected malfeasance, when they were all talking all manner of evil to now changing and saying all is well—that is stunning. For Christie to say that he never intended to gain full control of BTC, that is stunning!”
I like Mr Christie. I cannot forget the kindness and maturity he demonstrated the first time we met at church a few years back. However, it is unfortunate that the deck of cards appear to be crumbling all around Mr Christie. Next week represents the first year anniversary of the gambling referendum, where voters voted no on a ballot that was, at best, grossly flawed.
On the one year anniversary of the Referendum
The fact that Mr Christie has stated that he regrets the referendum on one hand humanizes him and earns my respect—and that of many others—but on the other hand it seems as if he feels that he should’ve just passed the legislation from back then. Mr Christie’s comments lead one to infer that he indeed did have a horse in the race and that he has seemingly admitted that he was a vote “yes” supporter in the referendum. I too support the legalization of gambling—for Bahamians—however I felt that the referendum, as it was, was flawed and did not ask the right questions.
And so, in the face of an impending showdown with the church next week, will Mr Christie seek to legislate the legislation and taxation of the gaming industry and ignore the opponents? We all know that if he does that, he must brace himself to pay a high price politically. What’s more, since he said he would be guided by the results of the referendum/opinion poll—something I thought he should not have said as it handicapped him—will he now change course?
Dr Sands espouses the view that PM Christie is “moving away from his previous position on consensus leadership.” He said that “as long as the outcome is supportive of Christie’s moves, then he would claim that he’s a consensus builder.”
“The language seems to suggest that Christie wished that he had just gone ahead and taxed the webshops. He now regrets the incredible expense the public purse suffered and the expense the people suffered for nothing but a public relations gimmick,” Dr Sands noted.
Next week, the church will undoubtedly be circling Mr Christie’s political carcass and—if he attempts to do what sources tell me—they will attempt to pick it to the bone!
By: Adrian Gibson
corruption, government, incompetence, PLP