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“GOV’T IN QUANDARY ON WTO”–Scathing Review Of Impact Assessment

Bahamas Against WTO organizer and member, Fayne Thompson, said yesterday that the World Trade Organization (WTO), Impact Assessment, produced by Oxford Economics, is a scathing review of The Bahamas’ accession to the organization. 

Speaking with this Journal, Mr. Thompson suggested that the report indicates that The Bahamas “government is in a quandary” when it comes to accession to the WTO. 

“If you listen very carefully to what the [report] reveals, it examines the nature of the Bahamian economy; it talked about the reciprocal nature of our economy. It talked about draw backs of the economy and then it makes a very, very simple suggestion of the structural reforms that’s  needed simultaneously; it should be done before we join the WTO. 

“It’s a curious kind of conclusion for  that to draw, saying if only because we need to address some of our strucutural reforms, it takes place before you join. 

“So, that was the nature of the conversation; that’s where it essentially ends.  But it’s a very good report in that it actually reveals some of the weakness and strengths of the Bahamian economy and for that we got a lot out of it. 

‘But, if I were to hazard a guess, this is not a report that the government wants to hear. This is not a report that would lead them naturally to want to join the WTO,” Mr. Thompson said. 

He added, “this is a report which will tell them stop, pause, kick this  down the road; let’s just do what we have to do for The Bahamas [but] not to join the WTO.  

“As a good Boy Scout, you don’t prepare as you join, you prepare before you join”. 

He concluded then that the “report is scathing in terms of its conclusion, that The Bahamas government should not bother with this WTO”.  

Maintaining the Bahamians Against WTO stance, Mr. Thompson said the report supported the group’s decision.

“[The report] supports our position in so many ways. It supports our position that we are not prepared for this type of journey; that the WTO is not designed for us and it sought to compare us to countries and places like Vanuatu and the Seychelles and Montenegro. 

“The Bahamas is a sophisticated, successful economy. We don’t have [any] problems but, the majority of the WTO is not part of a whole overall scheme,” Mr Thompson said. 

During the question and answer period at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation Breakfast meeting, attempts were made to compare The Bahamas to Jamaica and Barbados, Mr. Thompson said this attempt “makes no sense”. 

“Essentially there’s a reason why The Bahamas has been so  slow. We need more deliberation, we need more thought and we must  join something which will allow policymakers to protect Bahamians. 

“It was a scathing report, I say this again, I diametrically oppose to the idea of joining the WTO. 

At one point, during the discussion, Trade and Investment Consultant with Oxford Economics,  Ramesh Chaitoo, admitted that some things have to be done before The Bahamas does join the WTO, Mr. Thompson recognized that there was some attempt on the consultant’s part to be objective. 

“But, you also get the impression that they we trying to be free traders, that is to say, they wanted to pretend that there is some sort of  objectivity involved in this whole process. There’s no objectivity involved. 

“Our economy is not ready for it, our economy is not prepared for it; it makes no sense joining

“To the extent that they were paid a handsome fee, I’m sure for the report; it was close to objective, but of course bearing in mind the fact that there were free traders in the room, those who believe in opening up your boarders and so forth to achieve a particular end, I’m going to say this, for all the reasons they believe this, say fine say we need to form this economy, it does not involve joining the WTO. 

“We’re in the process of a number of attempts of liberalization, why then do we have to join ? That was the crux of the conversation in the room and it was a clear statement in the way that they sought to deal with the answers. There is no reason that they gave, outright reason that they gave for joining the WTO,” Mr. Thompson said.

As far as regulations, one of the recommendations the report made, Mr. Thompson argues that if regulation or deregulation is needed it can be done in the absence of joining the WTO. 

“We take the point that The Bahamas needs management, better control and so forth.

“We also made the point that there is no National Development Plan. With there being no National Development Plan, how then do we move in the direction of joining something and we have no idea as to where we want to be? 

“We’re talking about a 10 to 15 to 20 year-development plan. In my humble view, not dispelling parts of what they said, it was a scathing critique; if even the suggestion The Bahamas is ready to  join, and that’s what I got from it [report],” Mr. Thompson said.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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