Nassau Guardian Stories

The problem of jobless young people

December 27, 2013

The most recent labor survey, which was released by the Department of Statistics, contained insightful and alarming information on the state of unemployment in The Bahamas...

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The busing system: Paying fares

December 27, 2013

Dear Editor,
Are you well travelled? How many countries have you visited? Five? Ten? Twenty? Well Editor, I have only visited three countries in my 43 years on this earth. And two of them have been industrialized countries - the United States and Canada. But notwithstanding my limited travel experiences, I have come to the conclusion that the manner in which the citizenry of the different cities within these countries utilize their public transportation is comforting and efficient.
You see, Editor, Americans and Canadians, upon entering a public bus pay the driver (with exact change) before taking their seats. There is no confusion as to your ability to pay when you would have already reached your destination; and there is no cumbersomeness with regard to payment with non-exact change.
However, Editor, in The Bahamas it is markedly different. I have been advised that there are laws on the "books" of The Bahamas that regulate the payment of fares on public transportation, which include mandatory payment of (exact) fares before taking your seat to ride the bus. But does that happen? Very rarely. The popular culture in The Bahamas is to pay your fare after you would have reached your destination and exit the bus.
It is also common in The Bahamas for bus drivers to offer change to passengers who do not carry exact fares. Should it be that way? I contend that it should not. These modern practices of our riding public cause our public transportation system to be uncomfortable and inefficient. However, I am not naive. I know the reasons why our citizens engage in the practice of paying fares after and not before:
o Almost everybody pays afterward; and if I pay before, I don't know if the driver will remember that I have already paid.
o If I pay before, and the bus does not reach my destination (for whatever reason), will I get my money back so that I can take another bus?
These are legitimate reasons to pay your fare afterward and not before. However, might I suggest to the Road Traffic Department that it engage in a comprehensive and ubiquitous advertising campaign for one year - the purpose of which would be to encourage the public to pay their fares before entering a bus. Part of the encouragement should include:
o A reminder that it is the law.
o Educating Bahamians, residents and tourists who now probably do not know that paying your fare before riding the bus entitles you to insurance coverage. Non-paying passengers are not covered by public bus insurance carriers in the event there is a serious accident.
o An assurance that passengers will get a refund in the event the bus is unable to transport them to their intended destination.
o The fare for taking a bus is now $1.25.

Educate the riding public that the department will "artificially" increase the fare for taking public transportation to $2 (a suggestion). Passengers will only be required to pay $2 if they choose to pay after reaching their destination or if they pay in a manner which would require change being offered by the bus driver. Otherwise, they would be required to pay the $1.25.
o Educate the riding public that the department will cause to be fashioned and subsequently cause to be offered unique bus tokens for sale throughout the country that would serve as currency to ride the bus.
It is my considered opinion that this (suggested) "artificial" fare increase and this (suggested) advertising campaign would serve to cause the practice of paying afterward to cease in The Bahamas, and our public transportation system would become more in line with the first world.
- Marvin G. Lightbourn

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Losing our moral compass

December 27, 2013

Dear Editor,
We've gone from the neighborhood-friendly drug lord to the neighborhood-friendly number lord. Lawlessness has become so acceptable in The Bahamas that we don't even recognize it when it's plastered on the cover of our daily newspapers.
I fear lawlessness has seeped so deep into the fabric of who we are as a people that 100-plus murders a year is the least of our worries.
There's very little the commissioner of police or the attorney general can do. Our problem is far larger and much more deeply rooted than their resources can reach.
The number houses are cannibalizing the income of already struggling inner city folks and soon the web shops will start cannibalizing each other, akin to the drug wars we became so accustomed to in the 1980s and early 1990s. And the only solution we can come up with is to tax them? Seriously?
The notion that people will still buy numbers so why shut them down is one of the most asinine arguments ever. We've been murdering each other since the beginning of time (remember Cain and Abel). So should we just legalize murder and tax the murderers seeing that it's not going anywhere? Come on people.
We are watching our country literally fall apart with our eyes wide open. We have to take our collective heads out of the sand and stop pretending we aren't part of the problem and just as much part of the solution.
I always try to remain hopeful but this is a battle that we're losing fast.
- Farrell Goff

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Political maturity needed now

December 27, 2013

Effective leaders govern with respect for all. Part of growing up as a forward-thinking nation intent on building a true democracy rests in our political leaders' ability to exhibit political maturity: Maturity in how they conduct themselves in the administration of the public affairs; maturity in the manner in which they deal with their colleagues and their political opponents.
The time has long passed for legislators to realize that in the New Bahamas they must show each other mutual respect. Only then will the electorate they are supposed to represent respect them and, most importantly, respect their fellow citizens.
The Bahamas at 40 is on the trek to being a mature democracy. This new generation of political leaders, particularly those in the governing majority, need to put country first. The electorate must demand that leaders be altruistic in their dealings and heed the call to put national issues before personal and political issues. Altruism - unselfish concern for the welfare of others - results in less partisanship in governance. It is patently obvious that partisan politics has left us a deeply divided nation. Additionally, if we want our citizens to improve their social interaction and communication - particularly in conflict resolution - then our political leaders have to set the example for the citizenry to follow. An immediate improvement in inter-personal skills is needed. With less partisanship in governance comes the eradication of victimization in our society; as we are too small to have this anchor weighing us down and keeping us from obtaining our collective goals.
There can be no doubt that political victimization has again raised its ugly head in our Bahamas as can be attested to by the hundreds of persons who were terminated since May 2012, and the cancellation by the present government of the 52-week temporary jobs program, which had also assisted hundreds of people more.
Representing this new Bahamian leader, I commit to govern in a tangible, fair and transparent manner. Action must accompany talk. Sadly, in recent months the governing party seems to have lost focus.
Our people must be less impressed with how something is said and how it sounds and more concerned with what is done based on what has been said. Pronouncements must make sense. The electorate ought not be impressed with the eloquence of the speaker's verbosity or extensive vocabulary - rather, all Bahamians should be more interested in whether or not he or she makes sense; whether their argument is persuasive and well thought-out.
In public life, promises made must be promises kept. Wild and eloquent promises of 10,000 new jobs in the first year should have been honored by those who made such extravagant promises. Promises to implement policies which would break the back of crime ought to have manifested themselves by now in an appreciable reduction in crime and the fear of crime which now pervades our communities. Promises to produce economic growth and development of the economy, to increase the economic empowerment, particularly of young Bahamians, ought to have borne some tangible fruit by now.
Promises to implement an effective program of mortgage relief for economically distressed homeowners ought to have been effectively honored by now.
Yet all these promises remain largely unfulfilled. In its core promises the government has achieved nothing but signal failures.
In the New Bahamas the electorate is watching and will judge harshly those who were the purveyors of false and meaningless promises.
For our democracy to thrive and grow stronger we must have political leaders, particularly those in the majority political party, live up to their promises and also who understand and respect the need to treat those leaders in opposition with respect. It is the wise politician who accepts that all good ideas to move our nation forward are not resident solely on their side of the political divide. Past petty behavior is no longer deemed acceptable in the New Bahamas.
To truly achieve the goal of building a great nation and dealing with the many challenges facing our country, all leaders must work together. Political maturity means that mutual cooperation is the order of the day, where the national agenda supersedes politically polarizing and personal agendas.
It is crucial to note that in our model of a parliamentary democracy, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is a part of the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The FNM in government eradicated the practice of excluding members opposite from a meaningful role in matters of national importance; but this "Pindling-era" abuse of power seems to have crept back into a national monologue on the part of the government. This endless PLP monologue has happened far too many times since May 2012.
In a mature democracy, the same courtesies extended to Members of Parliament in the governing party should be extended to opposition Members of Parliament. Political maturity means that the standard of governance never changes despite political differences. In the New Bahamas, we must learn that it is acceptable to attack each other's ideas, but it is not acceptable to verbally or physically attack the individual putting forth the idea.
In a mature democracy systems are in place pertaining to the position or office one holds, regardless of the person in the office. Those systems work no matter which political party is in power. An example would be the acting prime minister's position. When anyone holds that position they should have the full security detail of the prime minister as they are acting in that capacity.
Political maturity means that there must be accountability at all levels of government. If we are going to inculcate in our youth that all citizens must be accountable for their actions, then it should only follow that there must be accountability by our leaders. More and more headlines reveal the lack of transparency, accountability and proper dissemination of information in many government agencies.
Bahamians woke up one morning to hear that BEC was about to be cut up and sold to the private sector, who all now appear to be foreigners. When was this new grand policy discussed with the electorate prior to being decided on and announced by the government? How is it so easy for those who so bitterly opposed the sale of BTC now - in the dead of night - to decide among themselves to sell BEC to the highest foreign bidder?
The recent dilemma, as it relates to the system of garbage collection, has many asking if the Department of Environmental Health Services ought to have published pertinent information regarding outsourcing of routes, and to which companies. Again, it is clear that political maturity means keeping the electorate in the loop, as we build the forward-thinking nation. Minister Kenred Dorsett mentioned in the newspaper on December 23 his intention to place garbage collection on a time schedule. I would advise the minister that once collection is contracted properly, or out-sourced, the government should have the regulatory and monitoring mechanisms in place for regulation (before contracts are awarded). These regulations should speak to the staffing of such garbage collection services in terms of training, methodologies employed in collection, work ethic and hygiene; as well as regulating the type of equipment and vehicles which can be used in the process.
Political maturity means recognizing that in a thriving Bahamian democracy, the Freedom of Information Act 2012 would have by now been brought into force. As the leader in this New Bahamas, I know that an informed citizenry is our best tool in the arsenal of effective governance. Citizens are entitled to have access to information about how their government is functioning.
Leaders must educate the electorate before entering into agreements, particularly involving foreign investors, where the utilization of the nation's vital resources are a part of the agreement. All previous governments have engaged in the practice of entering into agreements with huge national implications, with minimal public consultation.
A mature political democracy is a place where government must be transparent, acting in the best interest of all citizens. There is no room for secret, clandestine governance. Let's change the status quo. Political maturity means, in simplest terms, open, honest leadership where we hold our legislators accountable.
I too believe in putting the national interests over the special interests. I also believe in putting principle above politics. The bottom line is, I believe we can do better. I believe we must do better.
Be assured of my firm commitment to lead the charge for this forward-thinking nation, highlighting the way to political maturity - the way of a New Bahamas.
o Dr. Hubert Minnis is the leader of the Free National Movement and the official opposition.

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Web shop employee shot dead
Web shop employee shot dead

December 24, 2013

A web shop employee was shot in the face and killed during a robbery by a man disguised as a woman early yesterday, police said...

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The gift of life

December 24, 2013

With hundreds of thousands of people around the world waiting for an organ donation to give themselves a fighting opportunity at a second chance at life, one doctor says it's at this time of year that people should consider giving the ultimate gift -- organ donation -- that for many people could result in the saving of a life.
According to Transplant Nephrologist Dr. Adrian Sawyer, whose specialty is studying the kidney and treating kidney disease, there is a need for organ donation, and even more specifically kidney donation
Referencing the United States Renal Data System Report during his recent Doctors Hospital Distinguished Lecture Series, Dr. Sawyer said the total number of transplants from 1997-2011 was in the region of 170,000 persons -- a drop in the bucket considering the number of people that need transplants -- high among them are people of the African Diaspora who Dr. Sawyer said historically have been reluctant to donate organs, that is up until 2007, despite the fact that people of African ancestry make up 12 percent of the population and account for 28 to 30 percent of patients with kidney failure on dialysis, or who require a transplant.
During his lecture, Dr. Sawyer also spoke to the increase in recent years of organ donations from living persons, so-much-so that in developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Spain in particular, he said one in three-to-five donations of a kidney is from a living donor rather than a deceased donor.
And in a world where there are three kidney replacement treatment options --Hemodialysis, which the 2013 United States Renal Data System Report that came out last month says the cost per patient reached $87,000 per year to maintain one patient; Peritoneal dialysis which is somewhere in the region of almost $70,000 per year; and the best form of kidney replacement -- kidney transplant which varies anywhere from $18,000 to $30,000 a year which obviously makes transplantation a winner. It has also pushed the increase for organs to be donated.
The total number of transplants between 1997 and 2011 was in the region 170,000, according to Dr. Sawyer.
"In developed countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Spain in particular, one on three to five donations of a kidney is done from a living donor, rather than a deceased donor."
One reason for the increase in living donors according to the doctor was the 2008 World Health Organization paper that was published to provide orderly, ethical and acceptable framework for organ transplantation, related to 11 principles that people should address when dealing with organ donations.
Organ donation principles
Organs may be removed from deceased persons for transplantation if consent is legally obtained, and there is no reason to believe the deceased objected to removal. Physicians determining death of a potential donor should have no affiliation with the transplant process at all. Donations from a deceased person should be developed to a maximum therapeutic level and living donors to any extent should be genetically, legally, or emotionally related to the recipient. The altruistic donor is someone who is not related legally, emotionally or genetically, but has decided for purposes of showing his or her belief in the goodness of man that if you have two kidneys that are working perfectly, you should give the gift of life.
In the principles, no tissue should be removed from a living minor or any legally incompetent person (to prevent abuse, and to prevent the issue of organ trafficking on the vulnerable and the disadvantaged). Organ donations should be without financial reward to the donor, next of kin, or any third party. And health professionals and insurers should not be party to organs obtained by coercion (indirect or direct force), or improper payments. All health professionals and facilities should be prohibited from receiving any payment exceeding the justifiable fee for the service rendered.
In the principles, organ allocation should be guided by clinical criteria, ethical norms, and the process must be transparent and externally justified. The doctor said the system should be high quality and safe, and that the procedure should be efficacious, and that long term income and outcomes need to be assessed for donor and recipient.
The principles also state that the organization and execution of transplantation activity must be transparent, and open to scrutiny. They also state that medical professionals must ensure that personal anonymity and privacy of donors and recipients are always protected. (There may be instances where people may be willing to indicate they have had an organ donated, or that they have been a successful recipient, but it has to be something done on a voluntary basis.)
Organs that can be transplanted
Organs that can be transplanted or given include the kidneys, the heart, which has to be given after death; a portion of your lung or one lung; you can now donate portions of your liver for kidney transplantation, even though the majority of those organs are taken from what Dr. Sawyer says they call deceased persons.
Kidney donations can be had from deceased donors -- people who have had either strokes, head trauma or have irreversible brain damage, but who in fact still have certain organs that are functioning. It was this group of people who according to the doctor used to be the bulk of donors for a long time.
Living donors consist of two groups -- living related and living unrelated. He also said that another group that has come about in relationship to the shortage of organs, called extended criteria donors who are people who are not dead, but may have a high blood pressure, and may have protein in their urine. He said these are people would not ordinarily be considered for donation, but over the years since the age at which people can donate or people would accept organs has increased, medical professionals can in fact use the organs that aren't ideal to transplant into older people who have a shorter life expectancy and who, he said, can do very well.
Paired kidney donation, he said, has evolved in the last five years, again as a strategy to try and improve the number of organs available for transplant. Organization for Procurement and Transplantation Network in the United States dealing with kidney transplants.
In 2013, Dr. Sawyer said of all donor types they had just over 12,500; almost 8,500 deceased donors; living donors, he said, almost reached 50 percent.
"This is evidence of the fact that living donation is certainly taking off. To compare in 2000 the same figures, 13,500; deceased donors made up almost two-thirds and live donors made up just less than one-third."
Wait listing
The time that people spend waiting for a well-matched kidney so that they can get their kidney transplant can take years. Dr. Sawyer said in 2013, all of the people awaiting transplants amounted to 121,000, with 98,000 of those persons awaiting kidney transplants. People awaiting pancreas and
kidney/pancreas transplants totaled just over 3,000 with people waiting on liver transplants numbering 15,000, and people awaiting heart transplants just over 3,500.
He said the total number of transplants performed from January to September 2013 in the United States was 21,000 with deceased donors numbering 17,000 and living donors at 4,500.
Since they started doing transplants at Doctors Hospital in 2006, Dr. Sawyer said they received a total of 37 referrals up to 2013. Out of all the referrals for patients who required a transplant, and 28 potential donors, they only managed to get one successful in that seven-year span.
According to the transplant nephrologist, one of thing that has happened in the last 15 years is that chances of a patient's body rejecting a transplant have declined with the advent of new drugs. He said rejection has fallen dramatically from a high 50 percent to less than 15 percent, which he said is the norm for transplant programs today.
African ancestry take note
Dr. Sawyer said when considering a transplant, doctors and transplant teams have to consider that the donation must be voluntary first, not coerced -- physical, emotional or otherwise. He said they have to take into account that no harm should come to the donor, either in the short tem or the long term. And that there should be evidence of benefit to the recipient, more importantly, the recipient's ability to comply with immunosuppressive therapy is important. The side effects of long-term steroid besides an increase in appetite, a patient's cheeks getting fat, developing diabetes, and even getting ulcers, they don't heal as well, and may develop hypertension.
He said developed protocols have allowed Caucasians to be able to reduce the dosage of steroids significantly, or even eliminate them after six months to a year. But he said they are the only people transplanted in that group who seem to do well, and that people of African ancestry are a very high-risk group.
"Steroid avoidance, or steroid reduction protocols in people of African ancestry are a no-no," he said.
According to Dr. Sawyer, the recurrence of the primary disease also has to be considered. He said one of the biggest diseases for which people will get kidney failure is diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which have a genetic component. And that when considering a transplant you don't want to take kidneys from younger people (in their 20s') who are in the prime of life and who may be at risk for disease and kidney failure in the long term.
Challenges
In the challenges associated with kidney transplantation, Dr. Sawyer said the first thing people should do is to ensure that they are educated on the subject.
"There have been studies now to show that for 20 - 30 years on, in a well-organized transplant program, certainly as far as kidney donors are concerned, the outcomes for donors are slightly better in terms of quality of life, kidney function, satisfaction and longevity, than for age-matched controls in the general population who are not donors. There is an abundance of evidence now to show that once you have gone through a careful screening program the risk of one of the concerns you may have is what will happen with my kidney function with only one kidney.
"Autopsy studies indicate that in approximately one in 1,000, to one in 1,500 in the general population are born with only one kidney. We only find out about it if, for some reason, we have to do studies to image their kidneys, so yes we have two kidneys, nearly all of us, but we can live with one, we can live a normal life with one," he said.
The transplant nephrologist said other issues that have to be taken into account are cultural and religious acceptance as there are countries where the issue of disturbing a body after death is taboo.
When considering organ donation, in particular kidney donation, Dr. Sawyer said all tests and studies to find a match, except for the angiogram, has to be borne out of pocket.
"Unfortunately, insurance companies do not pay for this. Insurance companies will only kick in if we have one recipient and they have five potential donors. If after the tissue typing and assessment, you find one the best matched donor, if you have insurance, they will kick in only for that. All the people who have gone and done all these tests are out of pocket."
Giving the gift of life by becoming an organ donor during the month of December would coincide with a number of historic transplant -- the first successful kidney transplant was undertaken in Boston on December 23, 1954, and locally Doctors Hospital did its first kidney transplant at the Shirley Street and Collins Avenue 15-16 years ago on December 5, according to Dr. Sawyer.
"Organ donation is the ultimate gift that you can give a healthy person, to someone who has a failing organ," he said. "Most of us have only one brain, and one heart, the Creator in his wisdom decided to give us two kidneys -- so that means they're important."

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Bahamas Medical Center's clinical exercise physiologist wins international award

December 24, 2013

Bahamas Medical Center's (BMC) Clinical Exercise Physiologist Sharad Johnson is the 2013 recipient of the Medical Fitness Association's (MFA) Rising Star Award -- International Region.
Johnson, one of the key team members at Medical Fitness Center at BMC on Blake Road, received his award at the annual MFA Conference in San Diego, California in November.
"MFA is thrilled to have such strong leaders dedicated to helping their communities become healthier through medically based fitness programs," said Bob Boone, president and CEO of the Association. "We are proud to recognize centers and individuals who are making a difference through the provision of individualized fitness programs and services that impact lifestyle-related chronic diseases within their community."
The Rising Star Award -- International Region recognizes outstanding individual achievement and leadership by front line staff within the medical fitness community.
Johnson played a lead role in the development of the new Medical Fitness at Bahamas Medical Center. He focused on establishing customer service standards, developing a pricing structure and was instrumental in strategic development decisions, and is praised by his clients and colleagues for his enthusiasm and ability to motivate. By helping to establish hiring standards for Medical Fitness at Bahamas Medical Center, he ensures a high quality of services will be delivered to clients and patients.
"We are very pleased to have Sharad working at the Bahamas Medical Center to lead the team providing medical fitness," said Barry Rassin, president of Doctors Hospital Health System of which Bahamas Medical Center is a part. "He is a knowledgeable, energetic and dedicated young man who wants to be a part of the change to improve health in The Bahamas. He truly is a star in medical fitness and we are happy that the Medical Fitness Association has recognized him for his contribution so early in his career."
Medical Fitness at BMC offers personalized fitness assessments and training, sports training, nutrition consultation, chronic disease management, physical therapy, cancer rehabilitation and outpatient cardiac rehabilitation as well as corporate wellness and their customized obesity management program, weight loss solutions.
The Medical Fitness Association is a professional association representing fitness facilities that believe in and promote the medical fitness difference and integrated care as the prescription for better health. MFA serves facilities and professionals who are committed to providing individualized health and fitness programs that help people manage their health risks, proactively work on primary and secondary prevention of lifestyle related chronic disease and post recovery step down programs.
A non-profit organization founded in 1991, the MFA is the only provider of a high quality facility certification process provider of industry standards and benchmarks, educational programs, professional development and networking.

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Merry feet for Christmas

December 24, 2013

This is the season to be merry, however it is often not a merry time for the feet. Lots of holiday shopping usually means lots of walking and even sometimes running. In addition, it is time for lots of standing, while cooking, during parties, church and even Junkanoo. Further, most persons, especially women will be wearing new shoes during these activities. All these reasons can add up to painful feet!
A survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) showed that painful feet are a common occurrence during the holiday madness and the number one way women soothe their aching feet is by moisturizing their feet. Women admitted that stretching and massaging their feet were also on the list of favorite foot fixers. Here are a few more ways to keep your feet merry this holiday season.
Exercise your toes: Toe cramping is common due to long hours of walking, often in tight shoes. Avoid toe cramping by raising your toes, pointing and curling them for five seconds in each direction, then repeat 10 times. You can do this several times a day and you won't even break a sweat, but your toes will get relief.
Massage your feet: Women like it because it works. Massaging releases tension, increases circulation and rejuvenates the skin after a long day on your feet. Get out the lotion and rub those toes, better yet get a spouse, child or friend to do it. You can also use a foot bath or tub to massage the feet. Fill the tub with warm water and your favorite fragrant moisturizing soap and let the jets massage your feet. Persons who are diabetic should not soak or use hot water on their feet.
Elevate your legs: Long hours of standing, walking and evening sitting can cause the feet to swell especially at the end of the day. Reduce swelling by elevating the legs by sitting or lying down and lifting the legs above your heart.
Rotate your ankles: Because of swelling and long hours of standing and walking the ankles can get tired and ache. Relax your feet by rotating your ankles, turn your ankle up toward your head, down toward the floor then right and left, slowly five times. This loosens up the ankle joints and increases blood flow to the area.
Wear smart shoes: For the most part, during your holiday activities like shopping, cooking, etc., wear sensible, comfortable shoes and avoid high heels. Save the high heels for actual dressed up events. If you know you will be on your feet all day, wear comfortable shoes with arch support and a padded sole.
When purchasing shoes, do so in the afternoon and be sure to try them on and walk in them in the store to be sure they fit properly. Do not wear shoes that don't fit, they will cause blisters and other injury to the feet.
For persons who already have problems with their feet for example heel pain or Plantar Fasciitis or even an injury to the feet, it is vital to follow the podiatrist's instructions and continue to wear the prescribed foot wear during the holiday. It will prevent relapse and return of pain and other symptoms after the holiday.
Prevent injury: It is important to not over do it and prevent any injury to your feet while rushing to complete all the holiday activities. Pay particular attention to foot wear and walking surfaces. Drinking alcohol and other substances also increases your risk of injury. Continue your exercise routine during the holiday season. Be sure to stretch before and after exercising. Wear new sports shoes cautiously, by gradually increasing the time your wear them each day until you adjust.
If you follow these tips and suggestions you can prevent injury and ensure that your feet are also merry during this holiday season. However, foot injuries and pain, including fractures, ankle sprains, blisters, ingrown toe nails, etc., are common foot complaints during and after the holiday. If you do get an injury or develop foot pain, see a podiatrist as soon as possible. Remember the reason for the season. Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

o For more information visit www.apma.org or to see a podiatrist visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street telephone 325-2996 or Bahamas Surgical Associates, Albury Lane telephone 394-5820.

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When home is not a home during the holidays

December 24, 2013

Nancy Vega of Maria Droste Counseling Center located in Colorado in Domestic Violence and the Holidays: A Survivors Guide states, "The holidays are often thought of as the best time of the year. It is a time for loved ones, celebration, and joy. However, for victims of domestic violence, the holidays can be a very dark and scary time. Unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and the increased consumption of alcohol can raise stress levels, which can contribute to incidents of domestic violence."
Since the holiday season is supposed to be the best time of the year, many people have high expectations. These can include giving the best gifts, balancing time effectively, getting along with family, and having an abundance of holiday spirit. Many people can become stressed while trying to live up to these heightened expectations, and feel devastated if they fail. Before the holidays, it is important to set realistic expectations and realize that things may not go as planned.
Financial pressures and the stress of having a tight budget can feel more overwhelming during the holidays. The expectations of buying the best gifts can increase anxiety about how to handle the many added expenses. Some simple steps can help with stress management during the holidays. One way to help with financial strain is to develop a holiday budget and plan of action. Be realistic about gift giving; give gifts that your budget allows, whether that includes store-bought or homemade items. Prioritizing gift giving and resisting external pressure and the internal urge to overspend can decrease holiday stress.
Alcohol use adds to stress
Another component of the holidays is the serving and drinking of alcohol. Sometimes, individuals will use alcohol and other substances to cope with holiday stress. However, drinking as a coping strategy often doesn't help because the ability to cope decreases as the amount of alcohol consumed increases. While hosting holiday parties, offer a selection of non-alcoholic beverages and stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party ends. Consider attending a help group if you or a family member has struggled with alcohol dependency. The meetings can be one of the most important steps to reduce the level of stress during the holidays. Seeking out further assistance, such as addiction counseling, can also help you handle the stress of the holidays.
Domestic violence is more likely to occur when stress levels are high. During the holidays, unrealistic expectations, financial strain, and alcohol can increase stress, and therefore, incidents of domestic violence. If you find that you are in a domestic violence situation, it is important to have a safety kit in case you have to exit a dangerous situation quickly. This kit should be hidden in a safe place and should include emergency numbers, a bag of clothing and toiletries, important documents such as birth certificates and a driver's license, medication, prescriptions, car keys, house keys, and cash.
There is help for persistent stress, worry, anxiety, depression, or overall negativity during the holidays. Finding the right therapist where you can have a safe place to get support and empowerment during difficult times can be helpful. Therapy can help with stress management, mood and relationships, and confidence and empowerment.
Christmas is a time of family, love and sharing. A time to rekindle bonds and be grateful for those loved ones and friends we all have grown to appreciate, new and faithful. Yet regardless of the time of year or season many persons are living within an environment of fear, pain and abuse. During this time of celebration and joy many individuals are continued victims of violence, spousal abuse, rape and other violent and heinous acts. While many of us look forward to the reverie, partying and celebration others fear the result when their loved ones who hurt and abuse them comes home from a night of Christmas partying.
How you can help
Most people know someone, or of someone, who is a victim of domestic violence. It may be someone in your family, a church member or a colleague in the work place. Be aware so that you can help, a loved one or friend to not be a victim of violence or abuse during this season or any other time?
o Be alert to possible signs of domestic violence in your workplace; co-workers who are increasingly late or absent, unable to concentrate on their work, attempting to cover bruises or are just distracted and withdrawn.
o Neighbors, friends or family members may have isolated themselves feeling that the abuse is their fault.
o Encourage your friend, co-worker or family member to talk to you and assure them that they can trust you and that you will believe them.
o Do not be judgmental and let them know they do not have to stay in an abusive relationship.
o Suggest they obtain a protective order.
It can be very distressing to suspect or know someone you know, a family member, a friend, a colleague in the work place or a neighbor, is being abused. There may be a feeling of helplessness that you cannot do anything to assist. If the person is an adult, you cannot force them to make a report to the police or to talk to someone, but you can encourage them to do so. Many victims of violence feel that nothing can be done to change their situation so the first step is to let them know that there is help available.

o Anyone in an abusive relationship can call The Crisis Centre at 328-0922 or 322-4999. Anyone in immediate danger should call the police on 911 or 919. For more information check out our website at www.bahamascrisiscentre.org or contact us by email at bahamascrisiscentre@yahoo.com.

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The Nassau Guardian's Junior Female Athlete of the Year

December 24, 2013

For the third time in the past four years, Shaunae Miller has been voted as The Nassau Guardian's Junior Female Athlete of the Year.
This year, Miller was unanimously chosen as she turned in one of the greatest years by a Bahamian junior athlete in the history of sports in the country. She is the Austin Sealy Award winner from the CARIFTA Games where she successfully doubled in the 200 and 400 meters (m), she won an NCAA Indoor title over 400m, finished as the top ranked junior female athlete in the world for 2013 over 200 and 400m, and culminated the year by finishing fourth in the women's 200m at the World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia.
Miller set numerous national and school records along the way, posting personal best times of 22.45 seconds in the 200m, and 50.70 seconds in the 400m. Both are new junior national records.
At the CARIFTA Games, Miller was the darling of the meet. She cruised in the final of the under-20 girls 400m, winning by more than a
second over her nearest rival, Chris-Ann Gordon of Jamaica. Miller won in 51.63 seconds compared to Gordon's 53.22 seconds. In the 200m, Miller and second place finisher Shericka Jackson, of Jamaica, both went under Anthonique Strachan's CARIFTA record of 22.85 seconds. Miller won in 22.77 seconds and Jackson was second, in 22.84 seconds. Miller also ran as a part of the gold medal winning 4x100m relay team, sealing the meet's top prize. It was the third year in a row that The Bahamas won the prestigious Austin Sealy award, as Strachan won in 2011 and 2012.
On the collegiate scene, Miller renewed her rivalry with Illinois sophomore Ashley Spencer and Arkansas senior Regina George. She won the NCAA Indoor title over 400m, beating both Spencer and George, this after finishing third at the Southeastern Conference (SEC) over that distance. Outdoors, she was second at the NCAA Championships in the 400m to Spencer. Spencer ran a stunning 50.28 seconds while Miller set her new junior national and school record of 50.70 seconds. As a freshman, Miller set University of Georgia indoor and outdoor records in the 400m. She is the school's second fastest ever in the 200m.
Miller's real crowning glory moment for 2013 might have come at the Moscow World Championships though. There she carried the hopes of a nation on her shoulders, and shone brightly as the youngest athlete to ever make the final of the women's 200m at the world championships. Miller wasn't done yet, as she stormed through for fourth, just barely missing out on a medal. It was the highest individual finish for The Bahamas at the biennial global meet. Miller, who opted out of the 400m, came off the curve in eighth place in the 200m final, but passed four runners on the home stretch to finish fourth in 22.74 seconds. The performance wrapped up a truly historic and fantastic year for the talented Bahamian sprinter.
On the strength of five gold medals from the CARIFTA Swimming Championships, young Abaconian swimmer Margaret Albury Higgs was second in voting for The Nassau Guardian's Junior Female Athlete of the Year. She finished with 22 points, just ahead of fellow swimmer Joanna Evans and Devynne Charlton, from athletics, who finished tied for third, with 21 points. Tennis player Simone Pratt rounded out The Nassau Guardian's top five junior female athletes, as she finished with 17 points.
In swimming, Margaret Albury Higgs swept the breaststroke events in her division at the CARIFTA Championships. She also won individual gold medals in the 200m and 400m Individual Medleys (IM).
Evans, who returned home with two gold medals and a new national record from those CARIFTA Swimming Championships, finished tied for third with Charlton. Evans also represented The Bahamas at the 4th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where she lowered the national record in the 800m free once again. She was 16th overall, in 8:58.64. Evans is the only Bahamian female to ever swim under nine minutes in the event, and now she has done it twice. The FINA World Junior Swimming Championships is the biggest meet in the world for swimmers 18 years and younger, and Evans earned a point for the country with her 16th place finish.
Charlton was exceptional this year as well. She won the gold medal in the under-20 girls 100m at the CARIFTA Games in a stunning finish, just out-leaning her teammate Carmiesha Cox. Charlton ran 11.60 seconds compared to Cox's 11.61 seconds. Charlton also won the bronze medal in the under-20 girls 100m hurdles, in 14.25 seconds, and led off a super fast under-20 girls 4x100m relay team which included Miller on second leg, Cox on the third leg, and Keianna Albury on anchor. That team won the gold medal in 44.77 seconds, almost a full second ahead of second place finisher Barbados (45.67 seconds).
Young tennis player Simone Pratt, who finished with a 20-5 record in singles this year, representing the country at numerous International Tennis Federation's (ITF) junior tournaments around the region and the world, was fifth in voting this year. She is currently ranked as the number 221st ranked junior female player in the world.
Gymnast Athalia Swann, who scored a perfect 10 on floor exercise for Level 8 this year, Carmiesha Cox, Jessica Cartwright from sailing, swimmer Victoria Russell and new tennis national champion Danielle Thompson rounded out the top 10.

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Parker: World relays to be biggest sports event ever in New Providence

December 24, 2013

Executive members of the International Association of Athletic Federations' (IAAF) World Relays Bahamas 2014 made themselves known to the public during an introductory press conference held at the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium last Thursday.
Keith Parker, who has been named executive chairman of the IAAF World Relays Bahamas 2014 Local Organising Committee (LOC), said that the two-day event which is set for May 24-25, 2014, will be the biggest sporting event hosted in New Providence, as it will bring together the world's best athletes.
BAAA President Mike Sands has been named vice chairman of the LOC and has the responsibility to liaison with the IAAF. Grafton Ifill Jr. is the LOC executive administrator and governmental relations officer. He is responsible for maintaining relations with government authorities. The role of managing director has been given to Lionel Haven. He is responsible for the overall management, leadership and operational activities of the LOC. Haven will ensure that the IAAF World Relays is successfully achieved in accordance with IAAF regulations. Eric Savard is the event consultant. A major events veteran, having managed numerous IAAF events, he will work hand in hand with Haven for the strategic planning, and is in charge of the general transfer of knowledge and delivery of the event.
Parker said hosting the event will require more than 500 event volunteers and more than 100 organising committee members and a part/full-time staff of over 25. He expressed confidence, however, that he and his team will remind the world that The Bahamas is now a major destination for world-class sporting events.

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Track and field parents association maintains progressive program

December 24, 2013

Despite the unsettling upheaval in the parent body, Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA), one of the more progressive elements within the sport, never missed a beat.
Reference is to the Bahamas Parents Association of Track and Field Athletes (BPATFA). Headed by Harrison Petty and inclusive of a sturdy group of executives, the BPATFA maintained continuity of the most vibrant program within the BAAA family. The scholarship list grew as expected. Student-athletes headed to various parts of the United States and were enrolled in institutions via the connections of the BPATFA.
Convinced that the BPATFA affords young track and field athletes one of the best opportunities to advance academically and athletically, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology came on board as a major financial partner. To Petty, the confidence of the ministry in the BPATFA "is gratifying" because it means that there is official recognition from an important government arm that the organization is vital to the overall development of Bahamian student-athletes.
"We presented our history to the ministry in detail. It is clear what we have been doing for many years. We appreciate the meaningful decision taken by Minister Jerome Fitzgerald. We are satisfied that we are important to the development of track and field in this country," said Petty.
The endorsement of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, will no doubt motivate Petty and company and result in more opportunities for Bahamian athletes. At a time, when there is no structured national development program considered worthwhile for track and field, the organization driven by dedicated parents, has evolved as one of the main planks in the process of discovering, nurturing and preparing student-athletes for competition and life afterwards.
The BAAA still does not have a national development program of note. So, accordingly, the sport is greatly dependent on the presence of the schools, private coaches/trainers and the BPATFA. Last Friday, the BPATFA saluted and encouraged its scholarship fraternity during a social event at the Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium. It was an appropriate year-ending interaction between athletes on scholarship and their sponsor-organization.
The BPATFA looms big on the Bahamian Sports Industry's horizon. The Government of The Bahamas is pushing the concept of a National Sports Academy. The BPATFA is just one of the many programs that are primed to serve as the pillars of sustenance for the proposed National Sports Academy. Indeed, the Bahamian sports landscape is much better off because of the existence of the Bahamas Parents Association of Track and Field Athletes.

(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at sturrup1504@gmail.com)

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Things to be happy about in Bahamian track and field for 2013

December 24, 2013

Bahamians have much to cheer about regarding the success of their international track and field campaign in 2013. At the Moscow World Championships, no medals were won for the first time since 1995 but much hope was shown.
Shaunae Miller
Junior Shaunae Miller, this year's Austin Sealy Award winner for the outstanding athlete at the 2013 BTC CARIFTA Games, switched to the 200 meters (m) from the 400m and finished fourth in Moscow in 22.74 seconds. Miller was the only junior athlete on the team and capped quite a successful season.
Her 22.45 seconds, done at the BTC National 'Open' Championships in Grand Bahama this June behind Anthonique Strachan's 22.32 seconds, is a Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Junior record and is fourth on the CAC senior list for 2013 and 12th on the world's list. At the 2013 BTC CARIFTA Games, Miller set a new CARIFTA record for the 200m at 22.77 seconds, breaking Anthonique Strachan's 22.85 mark from Bermuda in 2012.
Miller dominated the world junior list in both the 200m and 400m. In the 200m, she had the top six times in the world. Her 50.70 seconds time done at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon, is the fourth best in the CAC region and 16th worldwide. In Moscow, Miller was a member of the 4x400m relay team that won their semi-final but was later disqualified for lane violation.
Anthonique Strachan
The 2011 and 2012 Austin Sealy Award winner Anthonique Strachan concentrated on the 200m this season. As a senior and professional athlete, she improved her personal best to 22.32 seconds at the BTC National 'Open' Track & Field Championships in Grand Bahama. This performance was the second best in the CAC region behind Jamaica's Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce and sixth worldwide. Strachan missed qualifying for the final in Moscow by a hundredth of a second.
Sheniqua Ferguson
The 2008 World 200m Junior Champion and 100m bronze medalist ran 11.18 seconds this season, at the BTC National 'Open' Track & Field Championships for 11th place on the CAC list. She made it to the semi-final in the 100m in Moscow and participated in the 4x100m relay. In the relay she was charged for a lane violation.
Bianca Stuart
The Bahamian national record holder in the long jump had the best performance in the region at 6.73m, done June 12, in Dakar. Stuart was unable to advance to the final in Moscow.
Teshon Adderley
Adderley has run the third best time in the 800m in Bahamian history after Vernetta Rolle and Whelma Colebrooke. Adderley was the first Bahamian to participate in the 800m at the World Junior Championships. This season, she ran 2:06.38. This time was the 15th best in the region this year.
Devynne Charlton
Charlton captured the under-20 girls 100m at the 2013 BTC CARIFTA Games, running a personal best of 11.60 seconds. She had won the event two years ago in Montego Bay. Charlton led the 4x100m team to victory at CARIFTA.
Doneisha Anderson
Anderson won a bronze medal in the 400m at the 2013 BTC CARIFTA Games. She won the Most Outstanding Female Athlete Award at the CAC Age Group Championships in Curacao, helping The Bahamas to win the championships. Anderson is coached by World and Olympic 400m Champion Tonique Williams.
Donald Thomas
Thomas had a challenging year but in the end, he jumped his best in several years, 2.32m to finish in sixth place in Moscow. This was ninth on the world's list.
Ryan Ingraham
Ingraham jumped a personal best of 2.30m at the Edmonton Invitational in July. This placed him in second place on the regional list and 21st on the world's list. At the World Championships in Moscow, Ingraham, who was still 19 at the time, finished in a three-way tie for 10th place with a performance of 2.25m.
Jamal Wilson
Wilson jumped a best of 2.28m at the Chris Brown Bahamas Invitational. His performance was third in the region, helping The Bahamas to sweep the top three spots.
Trevor Barry
Barry, the 2011 World Championships bronze medalist, was injured this year and was only able to clear 2.25m. This placed him fifth in the region.
Derrick Atkins
After making a comeback in 2012, the national record holder and Osaka silver medalist ran a best of 10.06 seconds for 14th place in the region. He was injured after the 2013 BTC National 'Open' Championships and did not compete in either the CAC Senior Championships in Morelia, Mexico, or the Moscow World Championships.
Shavez Hart
Hart had a best of 10.16 seconds which was 28th on the regional list. At the Moscow World Championships, he did not advance to the semi-final.
Men 4x100m relay
In Moscow, history was made when all four relay teams qualified for the World Championships. The men's 4x100m relay team had broken the national record twice at the CAC Senior Championships in Morelia. Trevorano Mackey had been suspended for a doping infraction and was replaced by Warren Fraser at the Moscow World Championships. The team of Adrian Griffith, Jamial Rolle, Fraser and Hart was able to run 38.70 seconds for a new Bahamian national record in Moscow.
Michael Mathieu
Mathieu, who set a new Bahamian national record in the 200m last year, was able to run 20.35 seconds in San Paulo, Brazil. This placed him 11th on the regional list. Mathieu ran at the National 'Open' Championships but was not fit enough to participate in Moscow.
Ramon Miller
The anchor man from London had the best time of all 400m runners in The Bahamas this season at 44.93 seconds. He ran that time at the 2013 BTC National 'Open' Championships. In the first round of the Moscow World Championships, Miller suffered "tightness" in his legs and was unable to advance to the next round.
Chris Brown
Brown did not have a banner year after having dedicated much of his time to organize his invitational meet. He made it to the semi-final of the 400m but did not advance to the final.
Jeffery Gibson
Gibson ran himself into the Bahamian track and field record book when he ran 49.39 seconds in the men's 400m hurdles at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon, breaking Greg Rolle's record of 49.96 seconds which was set in May of 1983. In doing this, Gibson qualified for the Moscow World Championships. He is the first Bahamian to qualify for the event since 1983. Gibson advanced to the semi-final.
Stephen Newbold
Stephen Newbold had a fantastic showing at the 2013 CARIFTA Games even if he did not win. Newbold, the 2011 World Youth Champion in the 200m, ran the 400m this time. In the heats of that event in the morning, Newbold ran a National Junior record of 45.94 seconds, and was only able to run 46.01 seconds for third place in the final that evening. To be able to come back that evening with such a performance was just unbelievable! At the National Junior Championships, Newbold set another National Junior record, this time in the 200m. He ran 20.76 seconds, breaking Michael Newbold's record which stood since 1987.
Teray Smith
Smith finished sixth in last year's World Junior Championships' 200m. At the 2013 BTC CARIFTA Games, he upset the field, running from lane eight.
Andre Colebrooke
Eleuthera native Andre Colebrooke finished second in the 800m at the 2013 BTC CARIFTA Games. At the Pan American Junior Track & Field Championships in Bogota, Colombia, Colebrooke captured the bronze medal in that event, the first Bahamian ever to do that.
CARIFTA Joy
Finally, one of the greatest performances at the 2013 BTC CARIFTA Games was the under-17 boys 4x400m relay. It seemed unlikely that the team of Henry Deluze, Tyler Bowe, Kinard Rolle, and Mikhail Bethel would win. On the final lap, Bethel shocked the fans and finished in 3:16.38.

There are numerous things to be happy about in Bahamian track and field this year. These are only a few!

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Golden performance for Smith in chess

December 24, 2013

Nathan Smith, a young Bahamian chess phenom, won the gold medal in the under-8 category of the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Youth Festival. Recently held in Costa Rica, the tournament played host to more than 230 players from 16 countries in the CAC region.
The Bahamas fielded a team of two players to compete for the first time in this premier regional event. Alongside Smith was Daijah Johnson, who entered the Under-10 Girls section.
The grueling nine-round tournament grouped competitors in six different age groups - under-8, under-10, under-12, under-14, under-16 and under-18 categories, with play stretched over five days. With each game lasting hours, physical stamina and mental toughness were equally as important as chess skills.
Indeed after the final round, no player in this event had a perfect 9.0 score, which speaks to the competitiveness of the field and to the pressure that all had to endure.
Smith finished in a three-way tie for first with 7.0 points, and won on tie-breaks having beaten both of his nearest rivals.
Meanwhile, Johnson tallied a total of 4.0 points - good enough to tie for fifth place in her section.
With his victory, Smith will receive an official invitation to the Pan American Youth Festival in Mexico City in July 2014. He has also met the requirements for the Candidate Master (CM) title, which must first be approved by the World Chess Federation (WCF). No Bahamian has ever been awarded such a prestigious title in chess.

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Atlantis president calls for VAT delay

December 24, 2013

As the government moves full speed ahead with its intention to implement value-added tax (VAT), a leading hotelier said he would have preferred a sales tax and is urging the government to delay the implementation date for VAT.
In an interview with Guardian Business, Atlantis President and Managing Director George Markantonis said for the Paradise Island property, implementing a sales tax would be "easier" than implementing VAT. He made this suggestion as uncertainty still looms about the latter form of taxation.
"We all understand it and the whole world has done it (sales tax). And more importantly for us, our computer systems would be able to take those changes," he said.
While the government has proposed a general VAT rate of 15 percent, the hotel sector will be subject to a lower rate of 10 percent. Markantonis has estimated that his company will have to spend at least $500,000 on technology to implement VAT.
Markantonis is not the only one suggesting that a sales tax be implemented instead of VAT.
Numerous members of the business community, such as President of the Bahamas Motor Dealers Association Fred Albury, and Super Value President Rupert Roberts, have also touted such an alternative as a simpler alternative to VAT.
Meanwhile, Pedro Delaney, a chartered accountant and chief financial officer at Societe Generale Private Banking (Bahamas) Ltd. and SG Hambros Bank and Trust (Bahamas) Ltd., recently said the government should consider other forms of taxation such as a corporate income tax, which he believes would be easier to implement.
"When you consider income taxes, there are personal income taxes as well as corporate income taxes. Corporate taxes may be an easier measure to implement if we are going to address income taxes. The government may in considering that want to consider a flat rate for corporations on their net income," he noted.
The government, however, has pointed to the more "regressive" nature of a sales tax, which does not allow for credits for tax paid on inputs, and therefore becomes "a tax on a tax". Officials have also suggested the credit mechanism under VAT would increase compliance with the tax regime.
Atlantis' top executive is urging the government to postpone the July 2014 implementation to allow for more preparation time. In the meantime, Markantonis confirmed that Atlantis plans to hire consultants to help it understand the ins and outs of VAT and the impact it could have. He maintains that his biggest concern is the possibility of The Bahamas outpricing itself as a destination.
"We're not sure how it's going to impact us spread across our campus because we have multiple business units and revenue streams. They're not all what it would be in a typical hotel. Is Marina Village, which has four of our restaurants, part of the hotel or not? How do the dolphins fall into this picture? There are a lot of factors you have to look at," he told Guardian Business.
"We're not going to eat the costs, that's for sure. So the issue is going to be if there is going to be an added cost, and if we're not going to be reimbursed for it in another manner, which is trackable, that's the key, then obviously we are going to have to pass that on to the consumer. Do we like it? Well, no. I hope it doesn't get to that because we certainly don't want to outprice our destination because we are already fairly pricey."
Officials at the Ministry of Finance estimate that VAT can generate approximately $200 million in revenue in the first year alone, which the government has suggested is key to reducing national debt levels.

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Targeted climate change action plan needed

December 24, 2013

As the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced it will support an investment financing program intended to begin addressing the effects of climate change on this country, an internationally-active coastal engineering expert has urged the government to be proactive but careful in how it selects any interventions.
Dr. Kevin Bodge, a Florida-based coastal and oceanographic engineer with over 25 years of experience consulting on coastal projects in Florida and the Caribbean, said that it may be all too easy to spend fruitlessly on climate change mitigation efforts, and the first step in addressing the challenge will be an extensive study to identify in what ways and where The Bahamas is likely to be hardest hit by sea level rise.
The IDB will support the development of an investment program to finance coastal engineering works; the establishment of data baselines which can be used to measure the extent of future impacts, and institutional strengthening in order to heighten The Bahamas' resilience to climate change.
The investment program set to be established by the Washington, D.C.-based development financing institution will build on best practices learned in the Caribbean region in the area of integrated coastal zone management, and aims to ensure that The Bahamas is able to meet a development target of 20 percent conservation of the nearshore environment by 2020.
This comes as the IDB has emphasized that the coastal zone is a "critical asset for the national economy" of The Bahamas, "harboring much of the islands' critical infrastructure in the tourism and fisheries sectors, including industrial complexes, ports, fish processing plants and tourism resorts and associated services; as well as 80 percent of the island's residential population".
The IDB, in documents issued to support the new program, said the government recognizes that future growth and diversification of the economy depends on maintaining the ecosystem and growing the resilience of economic activities that take place to coastal risks such as erosion, flooding, climate change and to biodiversity loss resulting from threats to coral reefs.
Bodge said that prioritizing which risks are greatest and can in fact be successfully managed will be critical to a meaningful program to address the threats to the Bahamian economy from climate change and sea level rise.
"I think an important part of any kind of IDB study would be to really identify what are we talking about: How severe is the problem, what is it likely to affect, in terms of your society and infrastructure, and of those what really matters?
"Sea level has been rising for centuries, and so the question is what are those (effects) that really need some attention and can be successfully mitigated through engineering measures?
"So often you get these internationally-funded programs and they want to do something important or good, so they put out relatively large pockets of money and it gets consumed by some international engineering consulting company that does something that doesn't turn out to have a lot of value," said Bodge.
The IDB's country strategy for The Bahamas for 2013 to 2017, which outlines which areas it intends to prioritize in terms of its engagement with The Bahamas in order to help advance development goals, points to climate change as a focal point.
It notes that the Bahamian government has made "several steps" towards establishing an integrated coastal zone management system and the project it will now fund and contribute technical expertise towards is intended to allow for a "timely initiative in its shift towards a sustainable economy".
Bodge suggested that knowing to what extent The Bahamas will be impacted by sea level rise in the coming decades is an extremely complicated question, as sea level rise has been found to be uneven across the globe. Traditionally, sea level rise in The Bahamas has in fact been below global averages, he added.
However, given the general trend towards sea level rise, rather than stability or depreciation, planning is certainly necessary if negative impacts are to be anticipated or offset at all.
"It's been equivalent to about eight inches over the last 100 years, or about three millimeters per year at most. There's no indication in the most recent data that in the last 10 to 20 years there has been any acceleration of that rate in the Florida/Bahamas area, although some of the data suggests there's a deceleration, though I think that is cyclical.
"Am I worried we will see The Bahamas go under water in the next 20 years? No, I'm not, but we've been watching the sea level rise in the last 100 years, it will at least continue at that rate and there's a chance it will accelerate. It could even double.
"Is it something to be worried about? Yes, we should do some planning for it; sea level has been happening for a long time."
Bodge noted that any interventions could have other knock-on side effects or ultimately be redundant and as such must be carefully planned.
"What can we do about it? There are so many things it can affect from the view point of a coastal engineer. First are the beaches and shorelines, and the beaches especially along New Providence have not been managed very much and there has been a depreciation of sand.
"To the extent that sand is disrupted by sea level rise it hurts the ability of a beach to protect itself, even without an increase in sea level they need to be protected with structures to keep sand in place.
"But if the fear is increased flooding of roads and low lying areas, if you protect those roads by sea walls, then you'll displace the beach.
"There's that aspect to look at and then as or more important is how does it affect stuff like storm water-run off, and infrastructure, flooding up through your storm drains? How does one mitigate that? That's tough; The Bahamas, like very few places, can't hold the sea back."

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Economy 'stabilizing' but mortgage delinquencies up

December 24, 2013

The Bahamian economy "stabilized somewhat" during November as foreign investment projects supported construction activity, and tourism registered a "modest improvement", the central bank has reported.
The Central Bank of The Bahamas has projected that the economy will show positive growth in the short term in light of improving economic conditions in key tourism source markets. Meanwhile, authorities expect "modest gains" in foreign investment activity to prove beneficial for employment levels.
"However, headwinds persist in the context of the still uncertain durability of the global recovery, the challenges to the tourism sector from intensified market competition and the elevated unemployment rate, which continues to limit the rebound in private sector demand and recovery in borrowers' ability to service their debt obligations.
Meanwhile, the outlook is for relatively subdued inflationary pressures --with the exception of the more volatile fuel component," notes the bank.
In its Monthly Economic and Financial Developments report for November, the central bank also found a worsening of credit quality indicators, with mortgage delinquencies leading the decline.
Mortgage delinquencies in particular rose by $18.7 million (2.7 per cent) over last year's corresponding figure to $713.5 million.
Banks increased loan loss provisioning by $7.7 million (1.8 per cent) to $441.6 million in November.
"Total private sector loan arrears increased by $23.5 million (1.8%) to a revised $1.3 billion, with the corresponding ratio of arrears to total loans firming by 36 basis points to 21.8 percent. In terms of the average age of delinquencies, short-term (31 to 90 day) arrears grew by $6.7 million (1.9 percent) to $370.5 million, up 10 basis points to six percent of total loans.
"Similarly, the non-performing category -- arrears over 90 days and on which banks have stopped accruing interest -- increased by $16.8 million (1.8 percent) to $972.1 million, corresponding to a 25 basis points rise in the loan ratio to 15.8 per cent."
Meanwhile, the bank also noted that the month of November saw a "significant" slowing in the growth of Bahamian dollar credit, with the growth in this area falling from the figure recorded in November of last year by $36 million to $5.4 million.
"In particular, the government's net obligations fell by $3 million, a reversal from last year's $41.8 million expansion, as short-term Bahamian dollar debt was liquidated. In contrast, credit to the rest of the public sector grew marginally by $1.7 million, vis-a?-vis a $7.3 million decline in 2012," notes the bank.
This movement with respect to credit to the public sector offset growth in private sector credit of $6.8 million. This was in line with the prior year's advance, as consumer credit strengthened by $7.4 million, outpacing 2012's $3.9 million increase, and commercial and other loans were reversed, from a $0.8 million decline to a gain of $2.2 million.
"In contrast, mortgages fell by $2.8 million, a turnaround from the prior year's $3.8 million expansion.
"Monetary developments over the near term are expected to be dominated by sustained high levels of bank liquidity, attributed to continued softness in consumer demand and banks' conservative lending practices. However, the seasonal increase in foreign currency demand during the holiday period is projected to continue to place downward pressure on external reserves, amid moderated real sector inflows," states the report.
The decline in external reserves was curtailed to $7.4 million from $39.1 million in the prior year, to an end-November balance of $677.5 million, mostly thanks to foreign currency borrowings by the government.

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Thousands attend event showcasing Bahamas in China

December 24, 2013

Five thousand high net-worth individuals, hand-picked to attend the event, were provided an introduction to some of The Bahamas' most exclusive properties during the Shanghai Luxury Property Show earlier this month.
Representing The Bahamas at the event was local real estate firm, Mario Carey Realty (MCR).
Carey's presentation focused on the high end offerings of Ocean Club Estates, Old Fort Bay, Lyford Cay, Sandyport and private islands. The formal 15-minute presentation in Mandarin and English was complemented by a display that one attendee said "made your country look so beautiful I want to live there in my future."
For MCR founder and president Mario Carey CRS, CIPS, CLHMS, the experience at the 6th Luxury Property Showcase December was extraordinary. It also re-affirmed his appreciation of how important relationships are in the Chinese culture.
"It was a great honor to have been selected to represent The Bahamas and an excellent opportunity for the country to be highlighted. There was so much interest in The Bahamas. We spoke to one person after another who kept saying how beautiful our country looked, including one gentleman who said it would now be his dream to live here in his future," said Carey, one of the 5 per cent of real estate professionals worldwide who holds a degree in real estate.
Carey and his team of nearly 30-strong sales associates and support staff have been cultivating the relationship with the Chinese community for the past year. The firm was the first Bahamian real estate company to sell a residence at Baha Mar and has sold several since.
The company's website has been translated into Mandarin. In November, MCR hosted a farewell luncheon for the departing Chinese ambassador and members of Embassy staff.
MCR also retains a Chinese consultant, Daniel Lowe, a Bahamian studying abroad, who Carey and Marketing Manager Terrinique Pennerman credited with playing a pivotal role in guiding them through the show.
"For the past year we have been building relationships and learning how important relationships are to doing business with the Chinese people," said Carey.
"They respect those who take the time to seek them out, respect their etiquette and understand what is important to them. And with our consultant's help, we learned more about Chinese business ethics and behavior. His direction was invaluable in dealing with the Chinese luxury consumer, their culture, etiquette and expectations."
Terrinique Pennerman, MCR Marketing Manager, agreed that having a Bahamian consultant in China to assist and having arrived with all materials translated into Mandarin added to the ability to connect with show visitors.
"As global markets shift and with interest of Asian markets escalating, we ensured that all of our informational materials were translated to Mandarin in effort to assist potential clients," said Pennerman. "Those details made a difference in our ability to reach out and get to know people." The show also allowed MCR to align itself with Chinese real estate affiliates.
"We learned more about this largely untapped market and they were asking specific questions about The Bahamas' unique location, government and immigration policies," said Carey.
Following the show, the MCR team headed to Beijing where they hosted a lunch for some 20 Bahamian students at the Bahamian Embassy. According to Pennerman, the students whose fields of study included International Trade, Economics, Finance and Engineering "were excited to discuss avenues of bridging the gap between The Bahamas and China. There was a heated debate around making The Bahamas more attractive to the Chinese consumer, and what to do to avoid the brain drain of students going abroad to study and not returning."
Carey said: "We were surrounded by some of the brightest minds and I encouraged them to come home once their studies are complete," he said. "These kids are pioneers in bridging the gap between the Bahamian and Chinese cultures and that's important because the Chinese are coming."
Carey said links with the new Chinese market were already paying off for The Bahamas. "As affluent Chinese access greater opportunity, enjoy increased wealth and become more attuned to a changing value system, our political stability, tranquil settings, magnificent waters and stunning views will continue to become increasingly appealing," said Carey.

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Freeport could be 'very attractive' under VAT

December 24, 2013

Grand Bahama could be placed in a "very attractive" position for investments, if it is able to escape the implementation of value added tax (VAT) come next July.
If that's the case, it's a move that is being welcomed by the business community on that island.
Given the current state of the economy, Barry Malcolm, president of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, said this would certainly be good news for Freeport.
"It would put the island in a position to be a very attractive place to invest in if the reports as indicated by Sir Jack Hayward that Freeport would be exempted from VAT are in fact true," he said.
On Wednesday, Hayward, the chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, was the guest speaker at the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce's luncheon at the Pelican Bay Hotel.
"It looks as if we will escape VAT," Hayward said during the luncheon.
"It looks as if the draft white paper does exclude Freeport, which will put us in a tremendously strong position for (from) the rest of The Bahamas."
With an exclusion from the tax, Hayward said that Freeport will be at a great advantage for corporate growth over neighboring islands.
Though he said the idea is premature, Hayward did not dismiss the potential for businesses on other islands to move their main offices to Freeport to avoid the 15 percent tax that will be applied to a wide variety of goods and services via VAT next year.
Malcolm said the issue comes down to compliance with the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA), which governs how Freeport operates, and by not applying VAT in Freeport the government could benefit the rest of the economy.
"My point is that Freeport is an asset to the economy and produces for the country on the whole and not just Freeport.
"Bear in mind that the majority of investors and licensees in Freeport are Bahamian and Bahamian business people. Any resident or business person that wants to live in and, or work, in Freeport and get the benefits of the (HCA) can do so," he said to Guardian Business.

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