By Pierre V.L. Dupuch
October 29, 2010
I should apologize for taking so long in answering a question I posed in my last article. I was not ducking; I was in Minnesota at a reception marking 50 years since I graduated from St. John’s University having majored in economics.
I promised I’d tell you how we can make $400,000,000.00 by convincing each visitor to spend $100.00 on Bahamian products rather than those bought from China, Japan or some other place. I said how a beautiful building is built by using a number of small 8″ X 16″ cement blocks, placed one at a time, following a plan.
But before building this structure and after the plan is drawn, we must clear the land. To build a Nation the same steps should be followed.
Until the Government … whichever one is in power … outlaws “fronting” it is a waste of time trying to build a nation. The game of “fronting” is like a metastasized cancer spreading over our country sucking the very economic life out of this land.
And what do I mean? The company is really owned by a foreign operation and thus the profits leave and go to the head office which is outside the country. Tourist money in; tourist money out. How does that help The Bahamas?
Eventually, it kills in an industry its creativity, imagination, self-pride and ingenuity – all the qualities needed by the masons to place the blocks and build the nation.
And how does this happen? A young person, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, comes home well qualified, ready to go! He/she comes up with a good idea, imaginative and creative, makes up a business plan, goes to the bank with it, borrows money and opens shop.
It grows as expected. In the first year the sales don’t quite cover the expenses so the business loses money. That’s expected. Most new businesses lose money for the first several years. That’s built into the plan. But then it starts to make money. Some of those profits now have to go back into paying for the predicted previous losses. So before any business can get well established it takes at least five years.
But looming in the darkness is the fronter, the person who would sell his mother for five dollars and not even give her 50% of the proceeds, a person with a heart full of greed and a head full of rocks. No imagination. No self pride. No creativity. He now sees the profit. The outside company he brings in changes the whole dynamics of business. In its country, it can write off losses as income tax deductions; it can keep its prices unreasonably low because his losses are really costing him no money; they’re written off as tax deductions.
The Bahamian, on the other hand, can’t write off his losses. There is no income tax in The Bahamas. His whole business plan is now shot; he can’t hold out against unfair odds; he folds. The outsider, now with a monopoly, raises his prices and rapes the Bahamian people. More money gone!!
So a country loses its young people who have creativity, imagination, integrity, and replaces them with “fronters”, the people who have greed in their hearts and rocks in their heads. And we ask, “What happened?”
This has to be stopped if we want to build a strong economy, and a prosperous nation.
But people say this does not happen. It does, ya know. Everyday.
I’ll give you a real case. There was a young man who had an idea. He created it, nurtured it, put it on the market and was tremendously successful. A large international company, fronted for by some very well known people in this country, approached this young man and asked to buy his business. He said no; he had created it for his family and that’s the way he wanted to keep it.
The large international company said, “fine, we’ll run you out of business.” And they started. They first upped the price of the product in other countries, dropped the price here and within a short time ran the local person who had the imagination, creativity, and integrity, out of business.
This large international company fronted by two well known, very wealthy men from The Bahamas, built a factory, but soon realized that by importing it, rather than manufacturing it here, a larger profit could be made. So they closed the plant, fired the workers raised the price to the public and started importing the item. Greed come … money gone!
Off to the bank went the air-headed fronters; off to the unemployment line went the Bahamian workers; out of the country went our money.
And we want to know what’s wrong? And we often wonder why so many young Bahamians who excel in University come back here and fade away?
This didn’t just happen. It’s been a cancer for a long time that has now metastasized and is eating away at the very bones of this society.
Tourism and the environment
A nation whose main industry is tourism has as its greatest asset its environment. And probably the Minister of Environment should be considered the most powerful, influential Minister in the Cabinet.
The tourist who visits our shores wants to see The Bahamas in the raw. When I was Minister of Agriculture I was approached by an “investor” who wanted to build a huge inland aquarium. Of course, as a tradeoff, he wanted the Botanical Gardens. I told him that we live in an aquarium. When I want to see fish or coral formations, I simply put on a pair of goggles and jump overboard. I have a choice of 700 rocks to live on and jump from into one of the most gorgeous aquariums in the world.
Some of our leaders saw this many years ago and established the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the first and then the only sea park in the world. Anyone who fished there would be arrested; a park warden was hired. It was special. It was indeed an environmental asset, to be protected by whatever Government was in power for future generations, children yet unborn.
It could be used to attract tourists to The Bahamas. It could be one thing that the tourist could spend a part of that $100.00 that I spoke of which put together could amount to $400,000,000.00 in foreign investment. Showing tourists the park could create more entrepreneurship for our people.
When Earl Deveaux was made Minister of the Environment I was happy. Mr. Deveaux had been Director of Agriculture when I was Minister and he spent many hours telling me about the importance of the environment. I spent many hours helping to convince him to get involved in politics.
Recently, this same man gave the developers of Bell Island permission to dredge a channel through the Sea Park, and thus, in my opinion, destroying it. Mr. Deveaux knows that the sediment caused by the dredging will settle on the reefs within at least a mile and kill them.
Mr. Deveaux should know that the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park and Bell Island are protected by law. But law doesn’t seem to make much difference these days.
All that Mr. Deveaux spoke to me about the environment was hot air. He should be called the Minister of Environmental Destruction. Mr. Deveaux, you should be ashamed of yourself. You should resign.
And by the way, Mr. Deveaux, if you were serious about resigning, you would have presented your resignation to the Governor General and copied the Prime Minister. It is obvious that people like Earl Deveaux must think that the Bahamian people are stupid.
Did you let one helicopter ride make you so dizzy that you would do this to your people, Mr. Deveaux? But, of course, you said that it would take more than a helicopter ride to make you decide. Maybe you would be good enough to tell us what was enough? It does not seem to be common sense that made you decide to allow the destruction in our National Park. What was it, Mr. Deveaux?
If I recall, Mrs. Lynn Holowesko, President of the Senate, was one of those who, with her friends, pushed for and created the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. I heard narry a word from them. No guts, eh?
And then there is Pericles Maillis, the great environmentalist. His mouth lately seems to be twisted in all directions. So, his opinion wouldn’t count anyway.
I suppose most of them subscribe to the saying “principle don’t put bread on my table.” And we’re surprised at what is going on around us?
Now you know. And now that you know, you have to do something about it!!!!
There’s more to come. Stay tuned!
A Bahamian handshake makes the visitors smile!
Often times we criticize, and that is good so long as you can give alternatives.
But there is also a time for praise, as long as it is genuine.
Two weeks ago my wife and I went to Minnesota to mark my 50th year after graduation from St. John’s University. Since we have not flown in the same plane for more than forty years, I had a long wait at the airport here.
My wife’s flight was called and the people lined up to board. And then out of nowhere came this Bahamian man, well dressed, well mannered and polite. He greeted each passenger, told them good bye, wished them god speed, and said he hoped they had enjoyed being with us as much as we had enjoyed having them. He invited each to return as he shook their hands and said farewell.
Even the grouchy ones smiled. I was proud. The man’s name, I believe, was Mr. Sands. I understand that the Ministry of Tourism introduced this program.