THE US government’s 2014 Investment Climate Statement on The Bahamas has certainly shaken the establishment as one by one PLP ministers come out of the woodwork, dragging their red herrings behind them, to discredit the statement.
According to Deputy Prime Minister “Brave” Davis, it was “inappropriate” for the US to comment on the PLP’s election promises, especially when he got carried away on the campaign trail in Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera, on April 19, 2012, and promised 10,000 immediate jobs in a job-hungry market if the PLP were elected the government. It was obvious that he couldn’t and – despite what he says today – didn’t deliver. Today he says he created even more jobs than the promised 10,000, but two years later his own government-produced figures do not support his claim.
And then comes Shane Gibson, Labour and National Insurance Minister, with the fantastic tale that Bahamian Hank Ferguson, son of former FNM chairman Johnley Ferguson, was the US report’s author. Hank Ferguson is employed in the commercial section of the US Embassy in Nassau.
The report had to be written by a Bahamian, no American was capable of conjuring up such a politically-biased document, was the Gibson theme.
Chargé d’affaires John Dinkelman was quick to blow that idea into the wind. No Bahamian on the Embassy staff, he said, had anything to do with the report. Nor was he making any apologies for his government’s statement. It would be pointless to have a US Embassy here, if Bahamians had to do their work for them.
Mr Dinkleman made it crystal clear that it was an American report to inform Americans.
And then came the daddy of them all. Businessman Franklyn Wilson dipped his oar into the debate in an attempt to change the subject and shine the spotlight on another “low standard” report produced by the Americans – this time Washington’s refusal to open the door for the Bahamas’ hand picked ambassador who had been parked on their doorstep without so much as a “by your leave”.
You see, our globe-trotting Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell forgot a major detail. Before an ambassador can be appointed, the host country has to be given the courtesy of saying whether it is prepared to accept him. Mr Mitchell forgot this important protocol. And so Dr Elliston Rahming’s appointment was announced, before Washington was even asked if he would be welcome.
Dr Rahming was kept cooling his heels for six months with no reply from Washington. To cover for the embarrassment, Dr Rahming requested to change assignments with Dr Eugene Newry who had been assigned to the UN. Even Dr Newry had to wait three months for his own Washington appointment to be approved. And so the switch took place — Dr Rahming went to the UN and Dr Newry to Washington. There was no official explanation — no one knows whether Washington ever did reply.
And now Mr Wilson seems to want to divert the public’s attention from one “unfair and unprofessional” report to another unfair report crafted by Americans – this time the subject was Dr Rahming. Mr Wilson said that through his contact with US congress men – based on information directly from the White House no less — Dr Rahming was black-balled because of a report written by a right-wing official in the US Embassy in Nassau when Dr Rahming was superintendent of prisons. The issue involved an American prisoner who had died in prison. Dr Rahming as superintendent was reportedly criticised by this particular official because, instead of sending the prisoner to hospital, he followed the court’s instructions and had the prison doctor see him. That is not the story that we heard about the refusal of the Rahming appointment, but one story is as good as another if one wants to change the conversation.
It is so unusual for a country not to accept an appointment of an ambassador from another country that if, in the case of Dr Rahming, there is an official explanation, Prime Minister Christie should make the announcement, not Mr Wilson. We think Bahamians are still owed an explanation.
The only time we recall the US interfering with a diplomat taking his appointed seat was in the recent case of the Iranian nominated as Iran’s envoy to the UN. The US refused to grant the diplomat a visa to enter the country. He had been accused of participating in the 1979 attack on the American embassy in Teheran and taking its staff hostage.
However, everyone is missing the point of this current US report on the Bahamas if they fail to understand that the report is more concerned about corruption, about secret deals behind closed doors, tenders by invitation only, and disrespect for contracts entered into by a previous government, rather than about election promises. Over the last year, said the report the “Embassy has received several complaints from US companies alleging a lack of transparency and undue government interference with bidding and procurement processes”.
Issuing contracts, the report said, “lacks transparency” because there is no requirement to engage in open public tenders and awarded decisions are not subject to challenge or review.
Investment Minister Khalis Rolle claimed that US Embassy officials have interfered in the Bahamas government’s contract bidding by lobbying on behalf of two American companies. He mentioned that one was a hospital. Maybe Mr Rolle would elaborate. We can assure our readers that if Bahamians had had a hand in the writing of this report there would have been more specific details — because the sip-sip that we hear on the streets is far more detailed than what is in this report.
Maybe Mr Rolle can tell us something about the Public Hospital Authority and the National Insurance board. We understand that all supplies and equipment for all the clinics in the Bahamas — excluding the Princess Margaret, Sandilands and the Rand in Freeport — come under the National Insurance Board. It would be interesting to know — and the Bahamian people are entitled to know — how these procurements are handled by this Board and what pharmaceutical companies are engaged.
The Americans are trying to tell this government something. Bahamians are doing a lot of talking, but we hope they are also listening, determined to demand an accounting of their government, because it seems that the government – with all these diversions — is not getting the message.