NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A group agitating against The Bahamas’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) yesterday called on the government to halt negotiations geared toward the move.
During a press conference Wednesday, Bahamians Agitating for a Referendum on Free Trade (BARF) contended that the government does not recognize the danger in WTO accession and it should be left to the electorate to decide by way of a referendum.
The group said it will fight The Bahamas joining the world’s global rules enforcer to the end.
“Their platform… the government never discussed the WTO,” said Paul Moss, a leading member of BARF.
“We are demanding a referendum on this issue.
“This is what we are about… We believe that in this country, which is a democracy if the majority wants it, that’s what it should get.”
Moss contended that it is critical to put such a “fundamental and life-altering decision” to the Bahamian people.
Fayne Thompson, another BARF member, opined that the WTO does not care about the Bahamian people and it is designed to facilitate foreigners.
According to Maria Daxon, co-president of the Bahamas Enough Movement, joining the WTO jeopardizes jobs that she said are already scarce for Bahamians.
Kelvin Colebrook, a member of Enough Bahamas, added that with the WTO’s privatization policy, the Bahamian government would not be allowed to own any government services and Bahamians will no longer be able to depend on government jobs.
The groups described WTO accessions as a foreign land, sea and small business grab.
“We are not prepared as a people, and our government looks as if they’ve sold us out,” Colebrook said.
As it pertains to jobs, Daxon said, “Whenever this reaches The Bahamas, we will be competing with 160 other countries that will be able to come into this country and compete to get these jobs.”
“No jobs will be safe,” she charged.
Additionally, Moss said he believes many Bahamians appear to be unaware of how serious the issue is.
BARF and its affiliates intend to provide monthly town meetings to educate the public and disseminate information through their social media platforms.
“We will be continuing townhall meetings, but more so in a coordinated effort,” Moss said.
“We are going to continue educating… visiting churches, visiting various civic organizations, educating and bringing to the Bahamian people and unions what this will mean for our country.”
The groups also appealed to the country’s young people to attend meetings and learn more about the future of The Bahamas.
Zhivargo Laing, minister of state for finance under the last Ingraham administration, was appointed chief negotiator for The Bahamas’ accession to the WTO.