Hon. Fred Mitchell remarks at Grand Bahama Immigration graduation ceremony

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Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell addresses immigration officers during the Squad A graduation ceremony in Grand Bahama on 6th Nov 2014

Freeport, Grand Bahama – As I was flying back from Trinidad on Wednesday I read the following statement in the Trinidad press. It was an announcement from Scotiabank’s President and CEO Brian Porter. The report said:

“Canada’s Scotiabank announced in Toronto yesterday that it would close 35 of its over 200 branches in the Caribbean and that it would sever 1500 full-time employees, including 500 in its international operations.”

The report also said that Scotiabank is expected to record certain charges in this fiscal 2014 fourth quarter earnings aggregating to a total of approximately 451 million dollars pre-tax.

It quoted the bank as saying: “The bank intends to record a restructuring provision of approximately 148 million dollars in the fourth quarter. The majority of the restructuring provisions relates to employee severance charges in the bank’s Canadian banking divisions and will affect people at all levels of the organization”

The report stated further: “Of the Caribbean: ‘Due to the prolonged economic recovery and continued uncertain outlook, these additional amounts bring the net carrying value in line with the expected net recoverable value.’”

That is a convoluted way of saying that the Caribbean as a region has an economy which is under performing and therefore not making money for the Bank

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. It is that issue which I submit should be the major focus of every government in this region. I will argue later that we are spending too much time on smaller issues when that should be the central focus – that of fixing the under performance of our economies.

In other news, we know the following about other Banks in our country: First Caribbean/CIBC wrote down $225 million in the second quarter for the Bahamas alone and $400 million for the region.

Scotia just wrote down $109 million for the region.

The Bank of The Bahamas wrote down $69 million

I start there because I told your fellow recruits and colleagues in Nassau yesterday that we have introduced some new immigration measures and some people think that they are directed at one socio economic group or nationality.   In fact what was announced was a generic policy designed to ensure that those who live in The Bahamas are documented to be here with the rights and privileges thereto appertaining. It is nothing more or less.

What the statement about the banks shows is that what we have in The Bahamas is a life and death struggle over many larger and greater issues which may affect our country’s survivability. The question really is what are we doing to ensure that there is a future for you and your children 30, 40 years from now?

You begin today as immigration officers, and we are by choosing you, choosing to shape the future of our country by putting our trust in you and your competence and your integrity.

Immigration will be called upon by our citizens to ameliorate the ill effects of so many things, one of which is the issue of the world economy.

There is a limited amount that we can do but we have an obligation to act within our sphere of competency.

That means that where people from the north of us come masquerading as visitors but being gainfully employed as property managers, as bankers and as salesmen, we must ensure that the rules apply to them as they do to gardeners, maids and handymen.

The criticism that you will receive will not always be logical but you must hold your head and work in a directed and focused manner.   You will hear all sorts of drivel.  Your integrity will be attacked but hold your head.

Just look at the banking example again. There has for example been adverse commentary about the decision of the government to create the Resolve Corporation to absorb a loan provisioning of the Bank of the Bahamas. But the fact is, what was done for the Bank of the Bahamas is not unusual for these times and for this region.

You can see that all the other major banks in the region have done so.

The Bank of the Bahamas has suffered from the same economic problems that RBC, Scotiabank and CIBC have suffered.

The one thing that you can say about the Bank of The Bahamas is that it tried to mobilize capital to help Bahamian entrepreneurs. The government has therefore done the right thing by the Bank of The Bahamas.