Meanwhile, back in the islands….election fever boils over

In one day, the governance and political landscape of The Bahamas has been turned upside down! Today was election day in the archipelago of islands I call home, and perhaps I was naive to think that somehow the Bahamian incumbent government was unique in this global economy and would potentially withstand the tide that has swept (in all but a couple of days) Governments in France and Greece out of power. But thrown out of power they were. In somewhat of a landslide. It was probably the most interesting election in 20 years – since that which ousted the longstanding Prime Minister Lynden Pindling following a decade of corruption allegations related to the booming cocaine trade that flowed through The Bahamas at that time.

A third party entered the fray, the DNA, led by a breakway former cabinet minister of the current Government who many considered to be charismatic and with leadership potential. His partner garnered a decent quantity of votes for newcomers, primarily seeming to take them from the incumbent party and in this sense acting as a bellweather of dissatisfaction with the state of affairs at large more so than a viable governing party.

Meanwhile, the two former law partners, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and former Prime Minister and PLP party leader, Perry Christie, both in their 60s, battled it out once again. At one point, online commentators were aghast when it looked like HAI (Hubert Alexander Ingraham) had even lost his set in the North Abaco constituency – one he has won for 7 consecutive terms and about which there had been little to no anticipation of him losing. Several cabinet ministers lost their seats. And with little delay, characteristic of a man known for his decisiveness, HAI suddenly conceded the election, announcing in the process that he would be resigning – both the seat he had just managed to win, and as the leader of the party. He would be leaving public life and starting his private life anew. Some simply can’t believe it and began making apocalyptic predictions on Facebook. Others expressed respect for what they perceived to be the right move given failure to lead the government to re-election. While supporters of the victorious PLP suggested cowardice and an unwillingness to go before parliament in the face of defeat.

Christie…..Ingraham…at it again.

All of a sudden the party which has governed the country for the last five years (and HAI was also PM for 10 years in the 1990s- 2001, making him Prime Minister for a total of 15 years) is both out of power, and truncated, without a clear leader, deputy leader, or hierarchy of any type. But perhaps this destruction will lead to some creative innovation, and our democracy will be stronger for it. I personally believe HAI will continue to “lead” the FNM from behind the scenes, playing a huge role in an advisory capacity. Health Minister Hubert Minnis is now touted to be the next leader. We shall see. I just hope that the new Government has a vision and a plan to execute it in still turbulent economic times, and to curb ongoing annual murder records. Joblessness and crime are surely two of the biggest reasons the FNM lost.

What I would like to know now is what this means as for the PLP’s pre-election promises to re-located the main shipping port, the placement of which it did not agree with, and to renegotiate or rescind the deal struck with Cable and Wireless to take majority ownership of the formerly state-owner Bahamas Telecommunications Company. These are major deals with major implications for the economy, and I would hope that rash political moves are not made. I am also concerned about what will now take place in relation to oil drilling in The Bahamas… the PLP was for it, the FNM (belatedly) against. There will certainly be a lot of pressure coming from international investors to push ahead with this. But can we handle it? Avoid a BP like oil-spill in our pristine waters, which have to date sustained tourism, our only fairly consistent source of GDP?

No to oil driling, thanks very much.

So this is what distracted me from finishing my Statistics methods section tonight for a research paper. At the moment, work is non stop, with a research paper to plan and execute in both Statistics and Econometrics, and a final to complete for my Capital Markets in Africa class by Friday. Meanwhile, a dozen extracurricular demands are also bearing down. But so far things are remaining in hand…… that is to say, sh*t is slowly approaching, but yet to make contact with, the fan.

As per usual, all of the above has not meant I haven’t had time to attend some more fantastic talks and events organised through Korbel. Russian Ambassador to Syria, Vitaly Churkin, came to Korbel a week and a half ago. However despite offers of money, beer and other incentives, I did not go ahead with my proposed plan of asking him “What it is like to work for the manliest man in the world” (on that note, did you see what Putin went ahead and did a day or so after being sworn in again as President? Oh just a little Judo/body-slam sesh with the Russian national judo team… as you do). I do believe I will regret that for the rest of my life. But anyhow, you live, you learn. He talked about vetoing action on Syria, and about the other occasions he has used his veto on behalf of Russia in the security council, about Russia’s relations with NATO, Europe and the US, and even got us laughing about how Putin made a “little change in the constitution” to allow him to be President for 6 years now instead of 4. Must be a good Ambassador to make us laugh about THAT, right?

Vetoing action on Syria? You’ve got to be churkin.

The next day was a workshop organised by the UN Association of Denver, in conjunction with the UN Foundation, about Myths and Reality surrounding the work of the UN, regarding climate change, international law and justice, women’s rights, peacebuilding and other critical areas of global concern. I attended the climate change talk, and the international law talk, and learnt a lot in both. Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation, provided the keynote speech which was a great insight into the work of the UN Foundation (****NEWS FLASH****They PAY THEIR INTERNS!!!***), an organisation I must say I didn’t know much about. The UN Foundation was set up with a $1 billion donation (yes, that’s what I said…..ONE BIL-LI-ON DOL-LERRRRSSSS…said in Dr Evil voice…) from media mogul, Ted Turner, in the late 90s. Their Board of Directors could be better dubbed the Non Profit All Stars, consisting of people like Kofi Annan, Mohammed Yunus (guy who invented Microfinance, FYI) and others of similar stature. The UN Foundation basically supports the work of the UN, building partnerships and mobilising resources and people for change on issues such as global health, climate change, and women’s empowerment (the latter of which, by the way, Wirth called the most intractable of all issues the foundation has sought to impact….that’s right….getting women to be treated as equal human beings….harder than reversing man made climate change. Huh). You should’ve seen the look on Korbel students’ faces when Wirth said that one of the major challenges facing the UN is how it is going to fill the gap left by a nearing retirement-age generation of UN specialists and bureaucrats. Um, Mr Wirth….we’re over here! Duh.

Lastly, a brilliant lecture by GFTEI co-director, Ilene Grabel, rounded off the week’s festivities. Prof Grabel was awarded the honour of giving the 2012 University Lecture, which is in recognition of scholarly achievements/groundbreaking academic research.

Ilene Grabel

Her lecture was titled, “Not Your Father’s Crisis: Productive Incoherence, Development Policy Space and the Global South”. She discussed her work on how the 2008 global financial crisis has led to a promising and ongoing period of “productive incoherence” in which developing countries in the global south which have traditionally been subject to demand for greater financial liberalisation (removal of capital controls on capital flowing in and out of the country, for example, as a dogma of the IMF) are now experimenting with a wider variety of policies on this front and, most surprisingly of all, with the quiet approval of the IMF itself, despite its traditional opposition to such attempts. Asian countries have taken steps towards setting up their own “IMF alternative” by stockpiling reserves to safeguard themselves and each other from future financial crises and emerging economies are now becoming net lenders to, rather than borrowers from, these multilateral financial institutions. All of these developments may well lead to the most significant pressure yet for the IMF to reform itself to become more amenable to increased policy space for developing countries and consequently, says Grabel, to the opportunity for sustainable development therein. What’s great is that in listening to Grabel, you know you are hearing from someone who is really on the cutting edge in her field and has the ear of some very influential global institutions. Oh and she’s just super nice. I’m not even making that last part up. Totally psyched for her International Monetary Relations class in the Fall. Not making that up either.

Goodnight, whoever you are.

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Posted on May 7, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I hope a we go to the polls to vote on whether Bahamas continues to seek drilling for oil or not. PLP did mention this.

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