Enemies of the State

by: Phillip Galanis

Consider This...

Author' s note: This article was first published on August 27, 2012. Since then, some of the objectionable actions by those who are referred to as â Enemies of the state⠝ have considerably degenerated. Notwithstanding vociferous objections by persons affected by the â Enemies of the state,⠝ those persons who can effect change seem either unwilling or paralyzed to deal with such persons who continue to severely damage our Commonwealth. Hence, we reprint this article hopeful that decisive action will be taken to ameliorate this situation.

Over the years, there have been persons in our society, Bahamians and foreigners, who have impacted our lives and our economy in ways that are not in the best interest of our national development. Some of those persons engage in criminal behavior. Others are simply obstructive, counterproductive and outright destructive. Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider This... who are some of these enemies of the state and how are their actions thwarting national development?

In its normal connotation, an enemy of the state is a person accused of certain crimes against the state, such as treason. Undoubtedly, criminals and hooligans are enemies of the state. Our recent past is replete with such people and the effects of their ' handiwork,'  so we need not dwell on them. Also, on occasion, bona fide freedom fighters or political dissidents have been characterized by authoritarian regimes as enemies of the state.

However, for our purposes, we prefer to address those persons who are neither crooks, freedom fighters nor political activists. There are more subtle enemies of the state who live among us and parade around in business suits and hold high office. Such persons include regulators, foreign consultants and a misinformed and ignorant media.

It is amazing how destructive some regulators can be to our economy. Regulators are established to ensure that individuals and businesses comply with the relevant legislation governing their activities. While there are some regulators who perform their responsibilities competently, too many Bahamians complain about being frustrated by regulators themselves or by those persons and institutions that are heavily regulated.

A clear example of this is the simple exercise of opening a bank account in The Bahamas. From personal experience and that of clients, friends and acquaintances, the simple act of opening a bank account becomes a major production that can take days, if not weeks. This makes absolutely no sense and some of our banking regulators and the regulated banks have become some of the biggest enemies of the state in this regard. It is ludicrous for our citizens to have to endure such exasperating practices, simply because our legislators chose to kowtow to those foreign elements who forced us to change our banking industry a decade ago.

The contrast is stark. Two weeks ago, I walked into a United States bank and opened a bank account in 15 minutes. I did not reside in the state in which the bank account was opened, did not have a home there, was not required to produce a utility bill or any such regulatory nonsense that the enemies of the state impose on us here.

Then there are regulators of several Bahamian industries who make it their lifeâ s goal to frustrate Bahamian citizens and businesses. We are aware of at least two instances where foreign institutions that operate in The Bahamas, and are therefore regulated here, were told that (1) in the case where the regulated institution was Bahamian owned, that they must seek a foreign investor to be its business partner in order to â enhance its credibility⠝ and (2) in the case where a Bahamian investor group was seeking to acquire a regulated institution, the foreign owners were told by the banking regulator that the latter would be more comfortable if the vendor sought a non-Bahamian purchaser. This is a blatant pernicious example of how some regulators act as enemies of the state.

We are also aware of other regulators who frustrate Bahamians by requiring superfluous information, and who impose overly-burdensome and costly procedures and sometimes extend the regulatory process beyond reasonably expected time frames.

There are several common characteristics that have been observed about some of these enemies of the state:

1. Some regulators are often career bureaucrats who never had a job in the private sector and, if they did, never excelled in their jobs and therefore returned to the public sector where they were promoted to senior positions, ultimately morphing into super-bureaucrats whose primary objective is to frustrate and obfuscate;

2. Some regulators have never taken the risk of starting a business because the most miniscule iota of entrepreneurial acumen escapes them, and often prevents them from understanding how things operate in the â real business world⠝;

3. Some regulators have never had to produce a payroll for their staff because they work for an institution where their salaries are guaranteed by the state; and

4. Some regulators are often privy to the personal wealth of individuals whom they regulate and are jealous of the latter's successes. Consequently, instead of assisting such persons, their myopic regulatory perspectives and practices often achieve the intended effect of thwarting the progress and advancement of the persons whom they regulate, sometimes with a damaging effect on domestic output.

Foreign consultants
Bahamians seem to have a perpetual love affair with foreign consultants. This is especially true of some politicians and high-level bureaucrats. Bahamians would be astounded if they really knew how much of the public purse is spent annually on foreign consultants. A classic example of this was the recent privatization of BTC, where many tens of millions of dollars were spent on consultants in what can best be described as an agonizing and astoundingly poorly executed privatization exercise.

Bahamians need to be far more demanding of their government when it comes to foreign consultants who are enemies of the state because these individuals often provide services that can very easily be offered by highly trained Bahamians.

Misinformation and ignorance
Perhaps the biggest enemy of the state is ignorance. Every day, enemies of the state perpetuate this ignorance and misinformation in our media and on the various blogs and social media sites. Sometimes it does not involve lying, but rather contorting the truth or omitting all the facts. Sometimes this is caused by ignorance of the exact facts, exacerbated by laziness in pursuing those facts to their source in order to glean the actual, seminal truth of the situation. Sometimes this is caused by agendas that exist deep within our so-called balanced media practitioners.

It is those hidden agendas that cause things to be presented to an unsuspecting and trusting public in ways that cleverly erode and undermine the beneficial policies of the state. It is those agendas that cause information to be imparted in an insidiously slanted and unbalanced way in order to please and promote one side over another. Those who do this are clearly enemies of the state.

The blogs and social media sites that impart their versions of the truth oftentimes are perceived as purveyors of the truth instead of what they really are: disseminators of self-serving rhetoric, often driven by purely political motivation and/or mischief. The individuals behind these sites are determined and committed, and their sometimes vile and always hard-hitting tone is crafted to destabilize belief systems, damage reputations and call motives into question. These are not places to find truth and concern for the welfare of the state. Therefore, these places, the bitter blogs and the poisonous social media sites, can also sometimes become enemies of the state.

Nothing is more important to a healthy democracy than an informed electorate that is ever vigilant about these enemies that seek to undermine our state. Whenever they raise their ugly faces, we must be ready to stop them.

The most effective means to rid ourselves of these enemies of the state is to identify them, to call them out into the light and to take them on before they destroy our lives, our economy and our country.

Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services.

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