The Bahamas is a paradise, we offer the marvelous three S’s: sand, sea and sunshine. 700 beautiful, luxurious islands of your choice and if you are lucky and a good planner, affordability. Tourists’ regular comments to locals are “you are so lucky to live here”, “what a dream” “you are blessed” and you know what? We are lucky to live in paradise, sipping pina coladas, watching the ocean, eating conch salad, no income tax or sales tax, well at least for now. In 2015, things will be VERY different.
Paradise or no paradise, if you live in the Bahamas there are some deep realities to face, similar to many other countries. The standard and cost of living exceeds that of most Caribbean countries. The cost of energy well … let’s just say that the average summer light bill is US$700.00 a month. We import most of our food, we are at risk of coastal erosion, and natural disasters and more recently, our fiscal situation is deteriorating, our rate of growth is slow, our private sector continues to suffer the challenges of access to finance, in an inherently conservative banking society, financial illiteracy, innovation, competitiveness and a long history of waiting forever for resolution from the courts on disputes.
Should we give up on addressing the above issues? I think not, in fact we should press on.. Let’s for example focus on the resolution of disputes. In 2009 a new Arbitration Act was gazetted in The Bahamas, which addresses matters of international arbitration. A tried and true system of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is essential in the conduct of international business. Arbitration, one of the pillars of ADR, essentially is designed to provide just that. In short, arbitration is the consensual process by which commercial disputes are resolved, outside of the court system, by an impartial tribunal in private. The word “ impartial” which we all know implies objectivity, fairness, unbiased processes, just to mention a few synonyms is by far a difficult and almost impossible accomplishment in a society of 300,000 persons that all have a cousin, aunt, nephew or husband in the right place at the right time. This is a Caribbean or Small Island State disease that requires major medical attention.