Categorized | National News

Sears Condemns Munroe In Web Shop Debate

A former Cabinet minister and the attorney for several web shop operators is going head to head with a leading clergyman who recently condemned the government’s decision to regularise the local web shop industry.

President of Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI) Dr. Myles Munroe is convinced that moving ahead with such a plan will lead to a “corrupt system” considering a small group of owners – in an industry that is estimated to generate $400 million per year – has the ability to “buy the government.”

Dr. Munroe further blasted the government for being on the brink of creating what he called a democratic dictatorship.

But former Attorney General Alfred Sears disagreed, stressing that the clergyman is wrong on public policy, the law and logic.

According to Mr. Sears, the web shop industry operates in a country where casino gambling, operated by foreign investors, is the core attraction in major touristic resorts.

These casinos, he said, are regulated by the government and are the recipients of concessions and annual cash promotional contributions from the government.

“While Bahamians are not allowed to gamble in the casinos, nevertheless some Bahamians are given exemption certificates to gamble for the house as croupiers, pit bosses and supervisors,” he said in a release issued on Friday. “There has not been any sustained public demonstration or criticism against the casinos’ interest or operation in The Bahamas by any sector of the Bahamian society based on the ground of a moral opposition to gambling.

“In fact, many churches hold their conventions, meetings and socialise in these very resorts where casino gambling takes place. Many Bahamians show off the casinos to their guests as a tourist attraction.”

Reiterating an argument the government has long held, Mr. Sears added that to leave the web shop industry unregulated would do more harm than good.

“[This] exposes The Bahamas to possible punitive measures by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), Financial Stability Board, OECD and negative advisories from the United States,” he added. “The FATF, the Financial Stability Board and the United States listed the Bahamas in 2000 for being an uncooperative jurisdiction with respect to anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism. Surely, no Bahamian would want a repetition of that disruption of the Bahamian economy.”

As for Dr. Munroe’s argument that a small group that controls a significant economic power is a threat to a safe government, Mr. Sears reminded that at one time, Kerzer International, which generated hundreds of millions in annual sales, was owned by a small group of shareholders.

Rather than seeing a threat to safe government in The Bahamas, the government he said bestowed a knighthood on Sol Kerzner for his contribution to The Bahamas.

“…Surely, it cannot be logically contended that the ownership structure of the enterprises alone constitutes a threat to safe government,” Mr. Sears charged. “If it is not the structure of ownership that is the problem, then the only thing that Dr. Munroe can be objecting to are the Bahamian owners of the web shops. Is it being contended that the only way we can have a safe government is when the owner of a major industry is foreign or from the traditional merchant elites of The Bahamas? If this were what is being insinuated, then that would be a very troubling proposition indeed.”

He added that if certain factors really want to ensure the safety of the governance process from powerful economic interests within The Bahamas, Dr. Munroe and others should follow his lead and lobby for measures such as election finance and other transparency reforms “rather than seeking to prevent qualified Bahamians from owning enterprises and industries that we are quite content to allow foreign investors and the traditional merchant elites to own.”

“I support the government for resolving to regularise the web shop industry in The Bahamas by July 1,” he added. “I believe that a properly amended Gaming Bill can establish an equitable regulatory standard in the gaming sector between the foreign operators of casinos and Bahamian owned web shops.

“The regulation of web shops, an industry created, owned and patronised by Bahamians, will provide protection for Bahamian gaming consumers, secure the integrity of the anti-money laundering regulatory regime, generate significant tax revenue and create a level playing field for Bahamian and foreign entrepreneurs in the gaming industry in The Bahamas.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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