Thursday, May 28, 2020
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Hubert Minnis: diplomat-in-chief

Dear Editor,

We all knew that the prime minister can whip up a mean pot of tasty stew fish at virtually a moment’s notice. But some were pleasantly surprised to learn that the PM’s other culinary skill was that of pastry chef.

Recently Chef Minnis baked a rather large humble pie and has dished up generous slices for the likes of PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell and Chester Cooper, the PLP newbie and resident parliamentary wisenheimer (a role bequeathed to him by the now seatless wonder Mitchell).

Mitchell heaped scorn on the prime minister back in January for having the audacity to think that he could mix it up with the big boys who run the European Union. Cooper condescendingly dismissed the trip and called on the PM to leave delicate economic diplomacy to “the experts”.

The Bahamas was at the time having its clock cleaned by the EU in a fresh round of blacklisting which was severely tying the hands of our financial services industry, a rather important plank in the very foundation on which our economy stands.

Until his direct intervention The Bahamas had thrown its full financial cavalry at the problem and still we were being stymied by the EU in a reaction that was part spite, part frustration and part blow-back from the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers scandals which left EU leaders having to at least appear to get tough on money laundering and assorted tax-related financial crimes, real or imagined.

Minnis clearly saw that while the issue was about taxation and financial dealings, the real solution was a political one, and so he must have concluded that he had to run direct interference to affect an amicable resolution with the EU and in so doing prove the old saying that a dog that doesn’t bark can still bite.

The EU’s beef with The Bahamas and other offshore financial centers (we stopped being a tax-haven decades ago) is that their best efforts at mulcting their corporate and private citizens were not yielding the kind of tangible results to the exchequer that they had hoped.

Someone was to blame and why not inculpate those exotic sounding places that still maintained low(ish) tax rates to attract offshore business. Other more hawkish tax havens such as the United States and reserved ones like Switzerland continue to hide in plain sight from the EU tax collectors.

Mitchell, Cooper et al in the PLP and no doubt even some people sitting on the PM’s own benches probably thought his trip was about vanity and therefore was doomed to fail.

Instead, Minnis swooped into Brussels on a low-key mission to present our case to the people who actually pull the power levers in the EU capital. He eschewed the blaring motorcades and fancy cocktail receptions, getting straight down to work upon landing and jetting back home immediately afterwards.

It worked.

Recently the EU announced that the prime minister had convinced them that our commitment to implementing best practices to weed out harmful tax protocols while leaving a lane for our legitimate off-shore businesses to navigate was solid and that he was personally vested in keeping the government’s shoulder to the wheel. He asked the EU to trust him, and they do.

Mitchell, Cooper, et al still believe that the prime minister’s job description is limited to being advisor-in-chief to the governor general and head of the Cabinet.

Minnis has served notice that he can (and when the times demand, he will) be our diplomat-in-chief. And he has been on a good wicket in that regard lately. Not only did he get us off the EU blacklist, but his backroom diplomacy helped diffuse the kerfuffle over our avidity for relief for the long-suffering Venezuelans, and this month Minnis helped fellow CARICOM leaders reach a workable situation on what to do with LIAT airlines. Comity trumped political correctness each time.

Bahamians have always drawn pride from a popular quote by British writer Rudyard Kipling which we still idealize as a trait most desirous in our prime minister.

To pass muster with us he (or she) must be able to talk with crowds and keep his (or her) virtue or walk with kings and not lose the common touch.

All of these can now be crossed off Minnis’ bucket list. He continues to wow crowds up and down the country. And last year he charmed a hearty laugh out of Her Majesty the Queen when he attended her at Buckingham Palace in London.

As to his cooking skills, Mitchell, Cooper et al, are still choking on Minnis’ humble pie. There’s plenty more where that came from.

– The Graduate

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