Nassau Guardian Stories
June 03, 2014
Thirty-five small business owners in Grand Bahama successfully obtained certification last week for studies, which, it is hoped, will help them become more productive and successful exporters.
The module in which the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) operators participated was facilitated by internationally-accredited ProNet trainers, Donald Demeritte and Maxine Harris. The course provided participants with training in market research, strategy development and the meticulous execution required to take their businesses global.
President of The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) Ian Rolle expressed his thanks to the Caribbean Export Development Agency, (CEDA) for its ongoing partnership.
He noted to attendees the importance of GBPA's relationship with CEDA in promoting growth and capacity building within Grand Bahama's SME sector.
"This initiative is hosted as a collaborative effort between CEDA and GBPA's Enterprising Centre," Rolle said.
"While it reflects CEDA's mandate to build trade capacity and competitiveness amongst SMEs regionally, it also demonstrates GBPA's commitment to foster growth, stability and sustainability for Freeport's economy through its small business sector. We are therefore delighted to partner with CEDA and are grateful for their continued support," he added.
Export marketing and management is the third module to be offered to small businesses this year. Modules I and II (business strategy and finance management) were hosted during March and April respectively, and each was very well attended.
The class of more than 35 small business owners, spanned a number of economic sectors, including manufacturing, retail, agriculture and fisheries, handicraft, construction and numerous others.
CEDA competitiveness and innovation advisor Kevin Jones welcomed participants to the training on behalf of CEDA. Jones also announced CEDA's special call for proposals in food safety that would allow CARIFORUM agro-processing firms to receive financial assistance as part of the Regional Private Sector Development Programme funded by the European Union's (EU) 10th European Development Fund.
Submission deadline for proposals is July 9, 2014. Additionally, Jones noted the opportunity for EU Market access for businesses within the agro-food processing sector and encouraged firms which were already exporting or are very close to being export ready to participate.
GBPA Commercial Manager Charles Pratt applauded the commitment of attendees for seeing the program through to its completion.
"Your presence at these workshops indicate the value you place on developing your business but also, by extension, your commitment to support a thriving small business sector that will create stable employment for residents and a healthy economy for everyone," Pratt said, as he presented participants with certificates.
Pratt further noted that the ProNet series was offered to assist SME owners with day-to-day management of their operations to become more productive, competitive and profitable. "We trust that, as a result of the training, we would have assisted small business owners throughout Grand Bahama to establish the required financial and business operations structures that would allow them to move their businesses forward and their products throughout The Bahamas, the Caribbean region and beyond," said Pratt.
Topics covered during the module included market research, export readiness, regulatory compliance and development of an export plan. As attendees expressed their gratitude to both GBPA and CEDA for hosting the training they said they hoped to see similar initiatives continue as the information received was relevant and beneficial.
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June 02, 2014
Two Bahamians and a Jamaican national are in custody after drug enforcement officers reportedly discovered a marijuana field on Saturday with an estimated $32 million worth of plants.
It is the largest field to be unearthed since 2012.
Police say the find was made in East Grand Bahama around 5:25 a.m. while police officers from the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) were conducting an investigation.
The men are reportedly assisting police with the investigation.
A similar discovery was made in March, when 167,000 marijuana plants, with an estimated worth of $16.8 million, were uncovered in the east of the island.
The field stretched over 27 plots and the plants ranged in height from one to five feet. Police suspect the plants were being cultivated for export.
The largest marijuana field ever discovered was in June 2012 during an aerial search in the east. That marijuana haul was said to have a street value of more than $40 million.
A total of 32 plots were found in the pine forest on the northern side of the Grand Bahama Highway, a few miles east of the High Rock Community.
It was reported then to be the single largest find in the last decade.
Police have yet to make any arrests in any of the earlier discoveries.
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June 02, 2014
Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash has submitted a report to the International Secretariat of Amnesty International, alleging the Christie administration has violated his human rights.
Cash charged that the government has violated several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he noted.
In one of the documents he released in relation to his Amnesty International complaint, Cash said, "I am taking this significant step of bringing the issues and concerns enumerated below to the attention of the international community because, sadly, I am not confident that I can expect due process from the agencies of our government that are presently involved.
"More specifically, I am concerned about the health and independence of several of our key institutions which I believe have been influenced and remain severely tainted by the heavy hand of political interference.
"The compromised state of our institutions -- especially the top levels of the Royal Bahamas Police Force -- is feared to be so great that many of us in the political opposition wonder whether we can expect justice and fair play in our own country."
Cash's complaint came one month after police showed up at his Cable Beach home and seized his cell phone and laptops as part of a probe into alleged leaks of confidential information from Bank of The Bahamas (BOB).
He told The Nassau Guardian last week that police returned the items within days.
In his document to the international organization concerned with the protection of human rights, Cash lays out the history of the BOB controversy.
He meticulously lays out allegations made by The Punch newspaper about the financial health of the bank. The allegations relate to fraud and mismanagement, all claims BOB has repeatedly denied.
"The Bahamian people wanted to know, were the allegations true?" Cash wrote to Amnesty International.
"However, the government said and did absolutely nothing about getting to the bottom of the underlying veracity of the substance of the leaks. That is why the general public felt The Punch stories had merit."
He also noted in his complaint that after The Punch stories he began to call for a full investigation into the allegations.
Cash claimed the warrant the police officers possessed was signed by a justice of the peace, a religious preacher Cash said had no legal training.
He said by the time he went to court a week later after taking legal action, he determined that the damage "from an excessively aggressive police force had already been done and they would have done as they pleased with the confiscated instruments -- irrespective of whatever representations they might make to the court about limiting the scope of searches".
"I had also decided that the most appropriate way for me to fight this egregious violation of my right to free speech would be to bring this matter to the attention of members of the international human rights community -- Amnesty International -- in addition to waging a domestic fight for legislative reform," Cash says in the complaint.
"It is important to note that almost one month after this government's stunning abuse of power by treacherously bringing me as a political party chairman into a matter in which I was not connected, it should be clear that the police have taken no further action.
"Moreover, they have said nothing. Ongoing investigation or not, I assert that they have said nothing because they found nothing related to their Bank of The Bahamas investigation, and they have nothing because there was nothing there."
Cash said in a statement to the media yesterday that he will submit hard copies of the full text of the two documents released.
He said the "preliminary narratives" outlined in the documents will be further amplified in subsequent meetings and reports with the agencies to whom they are submitted.
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June 02, 2014
The Christie administration has made provisions to essentially quadruple the Ministry for Grand Bahama's budget in the next fiscal year in an effort to streamline government administration on the island, according to Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville.
In the 2013/2014 budget, just over $3.7 million was allocated for the ministry. However, a little more than $12.6 million has been earmarked for the ministry for the upcoming fiscal year.
The huge budget boost is mainly covered by a nearly $1.2 million increase in funds for contract workers; a $4.76 million increase in money for electricity and a $1.7 million increase in the water line item.
Darville told The Guardian that none of this is really "new money", but rather funds shifted from other government entities -- like schools -- in order to make bill payment more efficient.
"It's been expanded to take on a greater administrative role in managing certain elements of resources to make it neater, more efficient," Darville said. "[But] some responsibility went back to the Ministry of Finance."
He also said the $1.2 million increase for contract workers doesn't mean that more people will necessarily be added to the government's payroll.
"The Ministry of Works and Urban Development was paying workers who were involved in the Urban Renewal department," he said. "Now that has come specifically for me to administer, [though] not all the aspects of workers on Grand Bahama. So that's not new employment."
The Free National Movement (FNM) has been critical of the Ministry of Grand Bahama since the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) launched it in 2012.
FNM MPs have questioned the purpose of the agency and labeled it an unnecessary addition to what it calls the Christie administration's "bloated" Cabinet, even though the FNM itself previously pledged to launch a ministry to deal solely with Grand Bahama.
East Grand Bahama MP Peter Turnquest told The Guardian that it's obvious the government is trying to "make the office useful and give it a purpose for existing, because up to today, it's been more of a liaison office than anything else".
"Bringing the administrative matters under the Ministry for Grand Bahama only shifts an administrative burden and probably increases the cost to administer all of these agencies," Turnquest said.
"It's creating work for idle hands, I suppose. But I don't see what benefit it is to the people of The Bahamas for the Ministry of Grand Bahama to be paying these bills rather than out of the Ministry of Finance as it has been done before. What savings are we going to realize as a result of putting this into the Ministry for Grand Bahama? I don't know.
"Be that as it may, at the end of the day, the overall mandate and mission of the Ministry for Grand Bahama still remains somewhat in the dark."
One thing Darville and Turnquest both seemed to agree on regarding the budget is the government's proposal to grant duty exemptions on building materials to businesses outside Freeport.
"We believe that...this will stimulate the construction industry and create jobs in east and west Grand Bahama and encourage economic development for direct foreign investment," Darville said.
Turnquest agreed, but said he would wait to see the details of the government's plan before fully endorsing it.
"I believe that this will serve in making the areas east and west of Freeport more attractive to investment. So I hope that Bahamians in particular will take advantage of it to develop some of the vast properties we have in these areas," he said.
"It remains to be seen what exactly is covered in the exemptions. Also what impact this will have on the overall revenue yield from Grand Bahama, and then how this all will relate to a national strategy for development of The Bahamas."
Darville also said his ministry will take an active role in shepherding in a new fire station for the island and a bridge at Fishing Hole Road, both of which are provided for in the upcoming budget cycle.
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June 02, 2014
A foreign service team will travel to Paraguay this week to address the Organization of American States (OAS) and meet with a representative from the office of the U.S. assistant secretary of state on the controversial allegations that the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States is recording and storing audio from every cell phone conversation in The Bahamas, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said yesterday.
During a press conference at the Department of Immigration on Hawkins Hill, Mitchell pointed out that it has been more than a week since U.S. officials indicated they would give a public response on the matter.
No such response has yet come, according to Mitchell.
Mitchell said his ministry is "kicking it up to an even higher level to get answers".
He said it is imperative to get to the bottom of who, if anyone, authorized the alleged spying.
Only the Ministry of National Security, the Office of the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police can authorize listening of private citizens' phone conversations, according to the Listening Devices Act.
Mitchell said that everyone in the current and former administration, who would have had authority to sign off on access to the cell phones with the "glaring exception" of the former prime minister,
Hubert Ingraham, has publically denied knowledge of the matter.
Asked whether he felt Ingraham should provide a public response, Mitchell said, "I am not going to prescribe to him what his behavior ought to be.
"I only point out to you that everybody has spoken except him and that is as far as I want to go."
He added, "The fact is, the allegations are still out there and as the government of the day we have to get to the bottom of this and if there is unlawful activity we have to make every effort to stop it."
Mitchell said whatever the outcome of the matter is, the government will stand up for the rule of law, for the protection of the privacy of Bahamians, and will hold all The Bahamas' international partners to their own moral standards.
When asked if there is any evidence to suggest the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) was used to facilitate the recordings, Mitchell said there are many "straws in the wind at the moment, but no hard facts".
The company has said neither BTC nor its parent company Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) is "complicit" in any breach of customer information.
Mitchell said he has assigned an officer to gather information on the history of the matter.
"Social media is alive with this, which means the Bahamian population is agitated over it," he said.
"I saw a very strong editorial by The Nassau Guardian, which described it as an act of hostility.
"Even The Tribune, which is not normally on the side of these things, indicated that we need to get to the bottom of who authorized, if it is true, people to violate the privacy of Bahamians.
"Across the board this is a matter of concern so the government cannot remain silent in the face of it.
"It seems to me that the logical conclusion to it is, once you find out that the law has been violated, then you have to ask people to stop and what follows from that."
The NSA reported most on The Bahamas during the four-month period leading up to the May 7, 2012 general election when compared to other reporting periods outlined in confidential documents leaked by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden.
The information was gleaned from three Special Source Operations slides detailing NSA intelligence reporting between January 22, 2012 through April 28, 2012; December 2, 2012 through March 9, 2013 and February 3, 2013 and April 27, 2013.
Those documents do not reflect any reporting from The Bahamas prior to January 2012, but it is unclear whether this means the program did not operate in this country ahead of that period.
As has been widely reported, the documents state that the NSA is recording and archiving every cell phone conversation in The Bahamas for up to 30 days.
Mitchell said he will provide an update on the matter during his contribution to the budget debate sometime next week.
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June 02, 2014
Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said yesterday the Cuban government has indicated that it will allow two Cuban men to return to The Bahamas to testify in a Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) hearing into alleged abuse at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre last year.
Earlier this year, Bahamian officials requested that the men -- Yordan Cantero and Alexander Vazcuez -- be given permission to return.
They were previously detained at the center.
"The letters rogatory have been delivered to the Cuban government and we think it is just a short time before it's resolved, which we expect to be that the witnesses will come to The Bahamas," said Mitchell at a press conference.
Asked how the matter will proceed once the Cuban men arrive, Mitchell said, "I want to be careful how I prescribe what a tribunal does. My understanding is that the tribunal has adjourned sine die for this particular matter to be resolved.
"The foreign affairs component of it is the transmission of the letters rogatory in order to resolve the issue of the production of the witnesses, and we have done that.
"I believe the Cuban government has indicated that they are in a position to comply, and so we expect it to be resolved."
Mitchell was unable to provide timelines on when the two Cuban men would travel to The Bahamas or when the hearing could resume.
However, he said he expects the matter to proceed soon.
In February, Cuban Ambassador to The Bahamas Ernesto Soberon Guzman said the men will be able to testify "one way or the other".
He said it is important for them to tell their version of the story.
It is alleged that several Cuban detainees were severely beaten at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre after they attempted to escape from the facility last May.
So far, 23 people have testified in the hearing, according to attorney Wayne Munroe, who represents five marines accused of abusing the detainees.
His clients deny the allegations.
Carlos Pupo, a former detainee who alleged that he was abused, testified last December, according to the attorney.
He said Pupo testified that he was beaten from 3 a.m. to sunrise.
A RBDF officer, who is also a lawyer, is marshalling the evidence.
The hearings are closed.
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June 02, 2014
I don't care how much money Genting has, the odds of making Resorts World Bimini successful stand about the same chance as making a Super Walmart successful in Mayaguana. The business model just doesn't work.
The idea that because Bimini is 48 miles from South Florida it is cheap and easy to get to is obviously a misconception. Because the combined U.S. and Bahamian taxes on all tickets to The Bahamas are approximately $120 and the biggest cost of running an airline is the cost of the gate, ticketing, baggage handling and maintenance, it is not financially viable for the 48-mile short haul flights.
Currently it costs more to fly to Bimini from South Florida than it does to fly to Las Vegas.
News alert - South Florida has gambling. From the Hard Rock to the Gulfstream Casino, South Florida has nine casinos, many with hotels, shopping, top entertainment and gourmet restaurants.
If South Florida is not your thing hop on a commercial jet, and in 35 minutes you will be in Nassau with the world-class Atlantis Resort and soon to open, the multi-billion dollar resort, Baha Mar.
Now exactly why is a high roller going to spend three hours on a ferryboat or spend over $300 for a ticket on a prop plane to gamble in a casino of the size you would find on a cruise ship?
The Discovery Cruise Ship as well as the SeaEscape Cruise Ship both offered day trips to Freeport as well as gambling cruises offshore, and they both went broke, and this was before South Florida had gambling.
Now for the Resorts World resort itself, after spending over a quarter of a billion dollars on the resort, they are ranked seventh out of eight hotels in Bimini on Trip Advisor. They are listed below the Thirsty Turtle Inn, which is a 16-room hotel on a canal in South Bimini with zero amenities.
From the TripAdvisor reviews, people are very unhappy with the Resorts World experience, and it's only likely to get worse. You can build a five-star structure on Bimini, but you can't offer a five star experience.
If you take away the children, elderly and people with jobs in Bimini, you might have a potential workforce of 200 local employees to be hired by Resorts World. With the new 350-room hotel coming online, it is going to require 500 to 600 people to operate this property. Where are they coming from?
The idea that highly qualified chefs, servers, IT personnel, front desk managers, comptrollers, maintenance engineers, etc. are going to leave their good paying jobs and homes in Nassau or Freeport to come to work and live in Bimini is a joke.
Bimini will never be Nassau or South Beach. Bimini should always be what Nassau and South Beach are not - a laid-back Out Island with pristine white sand beaches, gin clear water, spectacular reefs with world class fishing and diving that has attracted affluent fishermen, boaters and divers to Bimini for generations.
- Neal Watson, Sr.
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June 02, 2014
Having learned about the magnitude of the dredging that is going on in Bimini, I wanted to write this short letter to you to inform you of my frustration and disappointment in regards to this matter.
I have been visiting Bimini for over 30 years, multiple times a year, and I have always enjoyed the quaint and humble character of this island as well as the pristine marine conditions that once existed there.
This dredging project is clearly having negative short and long term effects on the natural environment. These effects will not be reversed within my lifetime or even within the subsequent generations that will follow me.
I write to ask that this project be halted for the sake of the island, its inhabitants, and marine habitat that we treasure so much.
Please reconsider your approvals of this project and do what is right for Bimini by halting all further construction by Resorts World.
- Luis de la Vega
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June 02, 2014
Another young man was shot dead in the capital on Saturday afternoon and still it is business as usual.
Not enough Bahamians are concerned with this onslaught to cause a halt in these crimes.
When will the country wake up, though? When will we say enough is enough?
Will it take a decline in tourism? Will it take a decline in foreign direct investment? Or will it take several innocent children being killed by stray bullets before we act?
Maybe it will take a senior police officer being shot. Maybe it will take the robbery of a high ranking politician. Maybe it will take the murder of a prominent pastor.
Sadly, all of the above mentioned acts have already happened. When will the consciousness of Bahamians be awakened? Are we the living dead? Have we been forced into submission?
The U.S. State Department issued a report this week advising its citizens of the spike in crime in The Bahamas. Will it take another 10 percent of Bahamian workers going on the unemployment line before the good citizens of this country decide to take action?
Will we continue to be a sponge for the criminals that we are harboring and protecting?
Non-action is murder. You could be next.
- Dehavilland Moss
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June 02, 2014
So far, public debate over the controversial resort development in Bimini has revolved around fears that a pristine environmental gem and one of the most important spawning areas for commercially valuable fish will be destroyed by large-scale dredging.
In addition to the environmental question, there is also an important social aspect. It concerns the wisdom of significantly altering a distinctive and renowned local community and culture in the name of an approach to progress that is debatable.
Perry Christie adopted the "anchor project" idea during his first term as prime minister. Very simply, it involves attracting foreign-owned mega-resorts to the country, usually near small communities where life is relatively basic and jobs are scarce.
Each resort is intended to act as an "anchor" for the future growth of the community, providing not only direct employment opportunities but also spin-off industries while causing significant improvements in infrastructure.
The Atlantis resort is often held up as the model of an anchor project success story. However, in terms of location, timing and distinctiveness, it is unique and probably unrepeatable.
The plan for Bimini is actually a more fitting example: an idyllic community slated to be transformed almost entirely into a hotel and casino support system; a quiet island to inundate with nearly 300 times its own population in tourists every year.
Not every member of a family in Bimini is employed today, but many who are earn an enviable living as guides or hosts to the dedicated network of high-end visitors who travel from around the world to partake in the island's unparalleled fishing and diving. These are now to be supplanted by hundreds of thousands of lower-income casino enthusiasts, who spend significantly less per capita than their predecessors, most of it going to the resort.
Bimini is far too small to fully staff the resort with its own residents. Therefore, the island can expect a considerable influx of people from New Providence, Grand Bahama and other islands. This will cause developmental pressures the state should be prepared for, including congestion and rises in crime and illegal immigration.
Some say the sacrifice is worth the economic benefits, but this assumes Resorts World Bimini (RWB) will not go the way of dozens of failed developments before it. The developer's own environmental impact assessment (EIA) called demand for the project "questionable".
What seems to have escaped those who support the anchor project strategy, is not only that The Bahamas may provide nothing more than a temporary stop-over for foreign developers on the way to bigger things, leaving us to pick up the pieces, but also that ending a way of life that has existed for generations is not the only way to get more jobs and better roads.
Around the world, societies in which people have the most disposable income to travel are becoming more environmentally and culturally conscious by the day. To the already lucrative fishing and diving industries, Family Islands could add heritage tours and offer these attractions through a network of sustainable boutique resorts that collectively have the potential to impact employment numbers significantly, yet individually are small enough to open the door for Bahamian ownership.
We must balance our short-term desire for wealth creation with the protection of our environment - which is our great natural resource. To destroy it for short-term gain would be destroying our future and that of generations unborn.
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June 02, 2014
"...Through my government's dedicated and responsible
approach to governance, the future looks very bright indeed."
- Perry G. Christie
The last Wednesday in May is one that most politicians and many citizens look forward to because, for the past two decades, it has been the date that the minister of finance delivers his budget communication to Parliament and tables the government's budget for the ensuing fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30 of the following year.
On Wednesday past, the prime minister, who is also the minister of finance, tabled the budget for the fiscal year 2014/2015. The budget was met with varying views, some skeptical, others incredulous and still others impressed.
This week, we would like to Consider this...What can Bahamians make of the recently announced national budget for the ensuing fiscal year?
In answering this question, the most important consideration is whether the government has demonstrated any significant improvement in the country's fiscal management. Let's examine the country's fiscal baseline in 2012.
When the Christie administration assumed office in 2012, it found in place an appalling fiscal pathology. In just five short years, from 2007 to 2012, the Ingraham administration had racked up unprecedented fiscal deficits, expanded the national debt to an all-time high, disposed of the country's most valuable national asset at a bargain basement price to a foreign purchaser under terms that were ill-advised and poorly considered and incurred cost overruns in several key national infrastructural projects.
It was against this backdrop that Christie realized that something radical had to be done to arrest the actions of successive administrations and reverse what was clearly a potentially precipitous plunge of the Bahamian economy.
Faced with systematic deficits on the recurrent account and very little room to maneuver as well as an increasing allocation of the budget to service the debt, and notwithstanding the plethora of naysayers, Christie took the very difficult but urgently needed decision to implement tax reform, which was the cornerstone of his multi-year fiscal consolidation plan.
That plan called for the implementation of certain policy initiatives that included holding the line on recurrent and capital expenditures, while simultaneously improving revenue collection. While attempting to do this, the prime minister's primary motivation was to strengthen the foundations of the economy by attracting foreign direct investment which would secure steady growth through employment and empowerment of the private sector. What has the prime minister achieved?
Foreign direct investment
We believe that the underlying principles espoused in the budget communication represent several positive steps in the right direction. The prime minister has laid the framework and road map to catapult us out of the financial doldrums into which we have sunk and in which we have continued to flounder for the past six years.
It is clear that, while we might not yet see the manifestations of his labors, the prime minister and some members of his team have been hard at work in New Providence and the Family Islands to spur economic activity. If his government is able to realize a fraction of the projects he delineated during his budget communication for the islands of Bimini, Abaco, Andros, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Salvador and Rum Cay, the country will receive a collective shot in the arm that should augur well for the overall health of the nation.
While it remains to be seen precisely which of the announced plans will actually materialize, the Christie administration deserves high marks on the foreign direct investment front.
Many of the government's critics have correctly concluded that revenue enhancement without expenditure reduction is a formula for fiscal failure. We agree with that thesis. It is therefore very encouraging to observe that the 2014/15 budget has addressed this concern. The government's budget calls for an overall reduction in spending by the government, when such spending is taken as a percentage of GDP.
Recalibration of revenue
At the cornerstone of this year's budget is the government's announcement that it will introduce value-added tax (VAT) on January 1, 2015 at a rate of 7.5%. For some persons this is a double-edged development. On the one hand, most persons are relieved that the VAT rate will be one-half of the 15% that was initially suggested, but at the same time they believe that establishing VAT without a commensurate reduction in customs duty will be inflationary.
The issue that some persons have with the announcement regarding VAT is that the prime minister indicated that there would be no commensurate decrease in customs duties at this time. For those who don't understand 'political speak', the operative words are "at this time".
It would be imprudent for the government to announce a reduction today for an event that will not take effect for another six months, especially when the revenue from the new tax source, VAT, will not come into effect for at least another six months. To do so would significantly reduce the revenue, which would be counter-productive.
However, the very next sentence in the communication regarding VAT is a bit more worrisome.
"Based on the revenue performance of VAT early next year, the government may be in a position to consider tariff and excise reductions at the time of the 2015/16 budget."
It would be as imprudent - and heartless - for this government to expect already financially struggling and economically besieged Bahamians to bear what would be an onerous burden of the 7.5% VAT on top of existing tariffs and excise taxes for the entire six months from January 1, 2015 to July 1, 2015. It is imperative that the government convey to the people its understanding and awareness of the hard times they are going through.
It should immediately rethink this announced non-reduction of duties in the January to July 2015 period - and perhaps beyond - and allow for a decrease of some duties when VAT is rolled out in January 2015.
In short, the budget is both instructive and impressive. It is instructive because it lays out a framework for re-engineering the public finances in a coherent, methodical manner and provides a definitive approach as to how the government proposes to grow and diversify the economy, create jobs and empower more Bahamians.
It is impressive because the end-game was formulated as a result of a consensus-building exercise, which included many of the stakeholders who will be directly affected by the implementation of the tax reform initiatives. It is also impressive that the government has been extremely transparent and has announced that the private studies that were conducted by those with whom the government consulted will be posted on the government's website.
Throughout the entire budget communication, the prime minister reiterated the theme of hope for a better future for all Bahamians in light of the proposed new taxes, the approach to collecting them and returning to a more disciplined approach to our public finances after two decades of behaving in a pre-programmed manner while expecting different outcomes.
For the first time in a very long time Bahamians can sense a glimmer of hope in the flickering light in the tunnel and not be overly concerned that it is an oncoming train.
While we are not completely out of the woods just yet, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief and take comfort in the reasonable expectation that finally, we are solidly on the path to recovery.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic and Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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June 02, 2014
Seven years ago, Dame Joan Sawyer warned that vigilante justice would take over once there was a perception that the independence of the judiciary was gone.
Her remarks at the opening of the Court of Appeal's legal year seem particularly prescient in light of the number of murders of people on bail or those who have been acquitted by the courts.
This year, two former murder suspects were themselves murdered after they were exonerated by the courts.
Other victims were murder accused who had been awaiting their day in court.
Bar Association President Elsworth Johnson said that criticisms of judges "can cause persons to lose confidence in the judiciary and that can be very dangerous. Any state where there is not the rule of law, you see anarchy".
Johnson said politicians are being irresponsible when they blame judges for releasing people on bail when they are aware of the processes that dictate the grant of bail.
He said, "Public confidence in the courts correlates to the concept of the rule of law. Public confidence in the judicial system is what creates stability in a society, and we must be careful of comments about the judiciary."
Johnson said the courts' work would be easier if judges were afforded proper working conditions and judicially trained support staff.
Johnson said the courts must guard their independence, even if it means making unpopular decisions.
He said the courts would step in if the police or prosecutors fail to do their jobs to ensure justice.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said police are concerned about all murders. He said while there have been retaliatory killings, for the most part people are allowing the judicial process to take its course.
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June 02, 2014
A man who has been serving a life sentence for 20 years is hoping to benefit from a Privy Council decision that says it's procedurally wrong for an appellate court to substitute a sentence without first hearing arguments about the appropriate penalty.
The Court of Appeal overturned Phillip White's death sentence in June 1994 after substituting a manslaughter conviction for the murder of Wayne Wilson, a tourist, on March 21, 1989 in New Providence.
The appellate court then imposed a sentence of life imprisonment.
White's case is not dissimilar to that of Dominique Moss, whose murder conviction was reduced to manslaughter. Moss was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, but was freed last week after he was resentenced in compliance with a November 2013 Privy Council decision that stated he was denied the right to be heard on the appropriate sentence.
White gave notice of his intention when he appeared before Senior Justice Jon Isaacs last Friday.
He was mistakenly brought down on the understanding that he was still under an unlawful sentence of death. A 2006 Privy Council decision that found the mandatory death penalty unconstitutional made it necessary for scores of people who had been sentenced to death to receive new sentences. As a result, about 20 convicted murderers were freed.
After Isaacs remanded him back to Her Majesty's Prisons to continue serving his life sentence, White said he believed he was affected by the Moss ruling.
Isaacs said he could not resentence Moss based on the decision as he was in an inferior court.
He advised White to either petition the Court of Appeal or Privy Council.
Contacted yesterday, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said she was not familiar with the Moss matter as she had recently returned to the country.
Maynard-Gibson could not say whether the courts would be flooded with appeals against the appellate court's longstanding practice of reducing sentences without allowing applicants to be heard.
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June 02, 2014
Prime Minister Perry Christie made
a million-dollar mistake in bringing the January 2013 gambling referendum to the public and should resign as opposed to moving on without any consequences for his ill-considered action, according to former PLP minister A. Loftus Roker.
"He made a mistake. That's a million- plus-dollar mistake made. And he said he made a mistake," Roker, a former chairman of the Gaming Board, told National Review.
"He shouldn't have gone to a referendum, because he wanted the referendum to say yes. The referendum said no.
"If I were the prime minister I would resign. If I reached that point. I made a mistake and I would pay for it. I would resign. That's what he should do. And let the other fellow who come along do whatever they want to do. But there has to be a penalty.
"There has to be something. You just can't keep making mistakes, and say I'm sorry. There has to be a price at some point with this thing.
"And if you don't pay and you're the leader, then don't look at that man on the street to pay because you must have more experience and more education and you should be wiser than the fellows who are following you."
In his budget communication in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Christie formally announced that the government will tax web shops effective July 1.
He said there will be a controlled number of web shop gaming operations as is the case with casino operations, and "upholding of laws and international obligations in accordance with best practices".
From the budget numbers, the government expects to collect around $12 million in taxes from web shops annually.
Christie's announcement came 16 months after a majority of people who voted in the referendum said no to web shop regulation and taxation. However, less than 50 percent of the electorate voted.
Many voters who voted no did so directly as a result of the lack of information, the failure by the government to keep its promise of a public education campaign, confusion over legal issues connected to the vote, the arrogance with which the Christie administration handled the process and the prime minister's many perplexing statements, which made it seem as if he was making it up as he went along.
Some people who stayed away from the polls, listed the same reasons for their decision not to vote.
Before the referendum, Christie had pledged to abide by the results.
Government officials later pointed out that the referendum was non-binding.
In regulating web shops, the government is now showing a strong lack of respect for the democratic process and it is doing so in an unashamed and brazen manner.
It risks serious political fallout and it has so violated the trust of voters that winning support on important measures via referendum appears in jeopardy.
While Christie admitted in an interview with National Review in January 2014 that he regreted taking the web shop issue to referendum, the need for a formal public apology in this matter is lost on him.
From the government's own numbers, we know that at least $1 million was wasted on that useless exercise.
The government is compounding the insult to the electorate by moving ahead with regulating the web shops in an arrogant fashion.
In analyzing the implications of ignoring the will of the people, we contacted Roker for his take.
"We ignored the results," said Roker, who held various portfolios in the Cabinet of the late Sir Lynden Pindling.
"We're now going to regulate the thing and all of that. So when you bring another referendum to me why should I waste my time taking part in that referendum? Why should I?
"And secondly, even if I take part and approve whatever it is you're asking me to approve, how do I know you are not going to change your mind after I voted?
"And so, they're now planning to hold a referendum on changes to the constitution. This thing cost millions of dollars to do, that's the first thing and we claim we have no money.
"And further more, before you hold a referendum, you should make sure that you have no other way of effecting what it is you're trying to effect."
Roker agreed with Christie's conclusion that the web shop issue should never have gone to referendum.
"That was an attempt, in my view, by Prime Minister Christie to absolve himself from blame because he was certain that the people were going to vote yes to web shop gaming. And then he could say to the church, 'Well it ain't me. It's the people who say that'.
"We should only go to referendum if there is no other way that we can deal with the matter."
Roker added, "They wanted to legalize this thing before the election.
"They knew that, but because they figured they'll get religious kickback from that they decided they would do a fake, they would do a sham.
"They're going to do something because they are satisfied, they believe, that most Bahamians will gamble. But that doesn't mean that most Bahamians want that legalized even though they may gamble.
"So you did that and you lost then I said if you made a mistake then you should pay for it. If Mr. Christie made a mistake in that matter where he called a referendum costing millions of dollars of tax payers' money then he should resign."
While Roker had sharp words for Christie on his decision to go against the referendum results, the former minister said that on the web shop issue he was neutral, although he said any business operating in The Bahamas should be regulated.
He said people should not gamble as a way to make money, but for entertainment purposes.
"Since that referendum, we have had web shops open in Acklins where there are about 300 people," he said.
"You've got about two web shops up there. And there is no employment in Acklins, except if you're a teacher, or something like that. We have web shops opened up there since the referendum and they had to get permission from the government to operate.
"They are operating under a license. How did that happen? How could that happen before we decide what we are going to do? We start giving more, just keep on giving licenses. And the government was doing that."
We also asked Roker if he is pleased with the general performance of the Christie administration.
He told us, "No, but not surprised."
Roker said, "I supported them in the election because I believe anything was better than [former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham]. But I knew I wasn't doing much.
"I knew I wasn't going to get much for it. They are going along the line that I expected them to go along. It's the same old thing; the same old posturing and the same old thing and they hope that you don't remember what happened yesterday, so they say a new thing today.
"If you listened to them, and if you check the record, you would find that most of these things came up before and most of them said what they were going to do and nothing happened."
Roker suggested that the current group of PLP politicians is an indisciplined and disorganized bunch.
"In the 60s before the PLP came to power, the leaders of the PLP used to sit down and decide what policy we should adopt, what kind of government we want and all that," he said.
"We used to sit down, a group of us, and come up with ideas which we then tried to effect. Today, we have no such thing, and so the fellow just gets there and he just carries on. And when you talk, he says well the other fellow was doing it, and so that's the problem."
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June 02, 2014
Dissecting the 2014/2015 budget
The logical impact of the government's new model for value-added tax (VAT) is that it would likely result in less consumer demand and therefore less spending, according to Professor Gilbert Morris, an economist, who chairs the Turks and Caicos Resort Owners Economic Council.
In response to strong opposition from the business community to the originally planned 15 percent VAT rate, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced in the House of Assembly last Wednesday that VAT will now be implemented at a rate of 7.5 percent on January 1, 2015 and customs duties will essentially remain unchanged.
The previous plan called for a lowering of customs duties and an implementation date of July 1, 2014.
According to the 2014/2015 budget, the government projects that it will collect more under the 7.5 percent model than it projected under the previous 15 percent model.
The government had projected to collect $200 million under its old VAT plan. It now says the 7.5 percent would result in a collection of $300 million.
While on the surface the 7.5 percent rate sounds more palatable than the 15 percent, the fact that there will now be very few exemptions and unchanged customs duties (at least in the near term) may not produce a more desirable outcome for businesses and consumers.
But it is a painful measure the government says makes more sense to bear than cataclysmic repercussions within two to three years in the absence of reforms.
Morris predicts the 7.5 percent on top of customs duties will lead to substantial burdens for consumers who must shoulder the weight of current costs along with the new tax.
"My understanding also is that mortgage arrears are very, very high and in that situation if you're going to add 7.5 percent VAT you're just piling another cost on top of things and what will happen, because as you know, businesses don't pay taxes; they pass taxes on to the consumers.
"But the taxes won't simply be the 7.5 percent. Whatever it costs businesses to comply with the tax, it would be more like 8.5 percent...all of that will be passed on to the consumer.
"Here's what this does. Consumers may then, and this is a theoretical point, but the logical follow through is that consumers may consume less. The economy may shrink. Black markets may emerge."
In his budget communication, the prime minister was non-committal on when customs duties will be lowered.
"Moving to a single rate of VAT, other than zero for exports, with very limited exemptions would enormously reduce the compliance costs of the private sector and the enforcement costs for the public sector," he said.
"Based on the revenue performance of VAT early next year, the government may be in a position to consider tariff and excise reductions at the time of the 2015/2016 budget.
"More general tariff rebalancing, however, is still a requirement that will need to be implemented once The Bahamas concludes the ongoing WTO negotiations."
But Morris told National Review the new model is simply not a welcomed proposition.
"Adding 7.5 percent to the consumer spending bill to me is a dangerous proposition because you're just going to lump that, essentially with duties remaining unchanged," he reiterated.
The 7.5 percent VAT will come as disposable income and savings for many Bahamians remain virtually non existent.
The following year, January 1, 2016, the government plans to introduce National Health Insurance, which is expected to be financed by way of a payroll tax. This will further stretch the incomes of many Bahamians.
As it relates to VAT, the government has not yet revealed what products or services would be exempted, but the prime minister stressed that these will be "limited".
Christie said VAT exemptions are a costlier method of trying to help the poor, because more revenue is sacrificed to those who are not poor.
"Having the means to provide direct assistance to low-income families is thus a far more efficient mechanism than exempting necessities from VAT," he said.
The government is introducing VAT in response to what it says is a critical need to act.
Christie announced that government debt at the end of 2013/2014 is projected at $5.1 billion, or 60 percent of GDP.
This is up from the projected 59.4 percent of GDP in last year's budget.
At the end of 2013/2014, the GFS deficit is expected to stand at $462 million, or 5.4 percent of GDP.
That compares to the budget estimate of $443 million, or 5.1 percent of GDP.
To cover its projected shortfall in revenue in the coming fiscal period, the government plans to borrow $343 million, pushing to $1.5 billion its total borrowing since coming to office.
Public debt interest is draining around $260 million of the annual budget and would likely trend even higher if the government fails to act, Christie noted.
With our finances at such a critical point, few would doubt the need to act. Just what action the government ought to be taking is the point of contention.
Morris contends, "You can't add costs to an economy which shrinks consumer demand and project higher income. That's basic economics.
"It's just not possible because you make no provision for the increased costs of goods for businesses that won't be able to cope, for businesses that have to add costs. If someone has to hire an accountant and pay out a certain amount every month that's one staff person gone."
The prime minister said economic developments in 2013 have had very clear implications for the evolution of public finances this fiscal year.
In particular, the tepid rate of growth of our economy, along with weak consumer demand and imports, impacted recurrent revenues directly, he reported.
Christie also laid out a series of investment projects he said would have a beneficial impact on the Bahamian economy.
"We are diligently striving to strengthen the foundations of the economy to secure steady growth and private sector employment creation," he said.
"In particular, we are continuing our push to develop new and expanding private sector investment projects across the breadth of the nation."
But Morris sees no serious effort at transformative economic reform.
"I see all these governments across the Caribbean talking about tax reform and again, as I always say, it's not that these people are any less smart than anybody else," he said.
"They went to the same schools with the people whose countries are doing very well, but they are stuck in a system and have adopted the priorities and prerogatives of that system, and appear to advance all that that system permits.
"A first-year economic student would not come with a concept of tax reform except it was embedded in economic reform, and so when I see governments of the Caribbean talking about tax reform and merely adding taxes this is a rather sad occurrence, unfortunate occurrence."
Morris added, "Economic reform would reveal where that $300 million is going, whether it's waste, whether there are outstanding taxes that you ought to have collected that you didn't collect, what the reasons are for not collecting them, and it may be well in excess of the $300 million that you are about to add in taxes to the economy.
"So, the government has the power to tax and the power to impose penalties when people don't pay taxes, but governments are refusing even to look at their own incompetence, the inability to collect taxes, and instead of reviewing those policies through economic reform and taking responsibility for them, they're coming out with additional new taxes to make up the shortfall.
"This produces a sense and a habit of aversion in people because eventually people will begin to say why should I pay any more taxes?"
"They're just going to waste it anyway, so people lose faith. They begin to resent the taxing power of the government and they lose faith in the judicious decision making of the government to spend tax dollars wisely."
Christie claimed, however, that the government is addressing "deficiencies" in its "grossly deficient" system of tax administration.
But these reforms have clearly done little to change the course of public finances.
Morris is far from impressed.
"We should have had a comprehensive economic review and comprehensive economic reform and that would have revealed where our true direction should be," he said.
"The Bahamas does not need another tax."
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June 02, 2014
Dissecting the 2014/2015 budget
The kindest thing that may be said of the 2014/2015 budget is that it is disappointing.
So said former Minister of Finance and former Central Bank Governor Sir William Allen, who was asked by National Review to assess the government's new spending plan presented in the House of Assembly last Wednesday.
"Saying something is so does not make it so, no matter how often it is said or how dramatically," Sir William said.
"That is a lesson you would think would have been learned since this government's last term in office. This government came to office vowing to bring a new discipline to government spending and to arrest the huge increases in government debt, which they said were endangering the nation's welfare.
"It has been in office more than two years now and in that time it has spent more and added more to the nation's debt in each of its two years than at any other time in the nation's history.
"It is projecting at the end of its third year to add more than $1.5 billion to government debt. When this last occurred it took six fiscal years to accomplish it. This government is now doing it in half that time, but it has been campaigning on the theme of fiscal responsibility before it came to office and continues to do so. Do words have meaning any more?"
In his budget communication, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the government is moving forward with reforms and measures targeted at "restraining the growth of spending and to make that spending more efficient and effective such that, through the medium term, recurrent expenditure shows a decline relative to the size of the economy".
Following that communication, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis pointed out in an interview with National Review that while the government intends to borrow $343 million in the coming fiscal year, that borrowing is down from the $465 million borrowed in 2013/2014 and the more than $600 million borrowed in 2012/2013.
"What that (ongoing borrowing) speaks to is that really the structural nature of our revenue system is not adequate, and so we are in this position where we're going to borrow money just to run the government," Halkitis told us, not long after he brought the latest borrowing resolution to Parliament.
"I think it speaks to the need for tax reform at an early stage, and so, I'm happy to hear publicly announced value-added tax (VAT) on January 1, 2015, which we think will do a lot to alleviate this need to continually be filling these gaps."
Still, the new budget fails to reflect any serious effort at curtailing expenditure.
Sir William noted that at the end of June 2012, government debt was $3.9 billion.
It is projected to be $5.4 billion by the end of June 2015 -- an increase of $1.532 billion or roughly 40 percent in three budget cycles.
This includes a period of six months after the introduction of VAT in 2014/2015 when the government estimates an increase in its revenue of $305 million.
During the same period, 2014/2015, the country's national income is expected to increase by $344 million.
"As government shifts such huge levels of revenue from the productive private sector to the non-productive public sector, we are asked to believe that this itself will not be a huge drag on an already weakened economy," said Sir William, who was finance minister in the Ingraham Cabinet.
"And what would add the final destructive blow to our economic circumstances is a continuation of a fiscal deficit. And there is nothing about the pattern of spending so clearly established by this government to give any comfort that this would not be so. Saying it is not so would not be enough to make it so."
Sir William added that the government has now given into common sense and the massive national objection to the originally proposed introductory level of VAT and has maneuvered itself out of its commitment for some corresponding relief on customs duties as a compensation for its retreat.
Christie announced on Wednesday that VAT will be introduced on January 1, 2015 at a rate of 7.5 percent with limited exemptions and essentially unchanged customs duties.
The government's original plan was to introduce VAT on July 1, 2014 at a rate of 15 percent with more exemptions and lowered customs duties.
Sir William said, "They had the audacity to relate this retreat to some curious notion of the avoidance of currency devaluation.
"This is a most unfortunate concept to inject into the budget dialogue, especially by the state minister for finance (Halkitis).
"In the first instance it is silly to make the connection on the revenue side after the introduction of a brand new tax measure. You wish now not to endanger your currency stability, then stop spending so much."
Last week, Halkitis said introducing VAT and keeping customs duties at their current levels will prevent the government from sinking deeper into debt.
But Sir William told National Review, "If the government wished to have a concern it should be with the balance of payments deficits it has been experiencing despite the heavy levels of direct foreign investment of which it boasts.
"This has to be a more threatening concern than the promised relief on customs duties. That reference to currency devaluation in relation to the government's wish not to give the promised relief is just plain crazy."
The former finance minister added, "In an obvious response to the performance of the balance of payments, the government has not only been adding enormously to the level of government debt, it has been adding enormously to the level of its foreign currency debt."
At the end of 2013 government foreign currency debt increased by more than $500 net million since the end of 2010 and already this year there has been a further $424 million foreign currency borrowing by government.
"Reductions in external reserves at the end of both 2012 and 2013 would be greater cause for concern than the promised concession on customs duties," Sir William said.
Sir William said the government is about to place a burden of an additional $305 million on an economy suffering anaemic growth in which persistently high unemployment and excessive personal debt are leading to massive consumer delinquencies as Bahamians face enormous challenges in meeting their debt obligations.
"And note that the amount being transferred to government is nearly 90 percent of the entire projection of the growth in GDP for the period," Sir William added.
"GDP in current prices is estimated to have just lost $56 million. And this has not generated an expression of worry over its consequences."
Sir William accepted that the country needs to address a fiscal gap that is surely leading to a major crisis.
"At the end of 2006 the government debt as a proportion of GDP was only 30 percent," he said.
"That proportion of debt-to-GDP could and should be restored, but the timescale for that restoration should be carefully considered so as not to require too much pain on a troubled consumer."
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June 02, 2014
Now one thing is for sure, in spite of the fact that we have our goals formalized with a specific plan of action in place which should allow us to achieve our objectives one by one; as we all know only too well, sometimes we will not achieve what we initially set out to achieve. In other words, as the title of today's article puts it 'Life Is Full of Disappointments'....yes it is! So is that all you want to write about here today D. Paul because that's kind of depressing talking about disappointments in life, isn't it? Well, yes and no.
You see, being disappointed from time to time due to temporary setbacks is a part of life for all of us. But the really important lesson which I want everyone to learn here today is this. Yes, there will be disappointments, but this is by no means the end of the road for us.....no it's not. We must never allow our temporary failures which cause us to be disappointed, to keep us back from eventually realizing our dreams.
That's right, although we may be really disappointed right now because something did not work out as planned in our life; we must not allow ourself to become downhearted, we must not stop pursuing our objectives just because we've hit a bump in the road, so to speak. As that well known saying so aptly puts it 'Life Goes On'.....yes indeed it most certainly does, and we have the ability to turn our disappointments into glorious joy provided we A. Learn the lesson from our temporary failure and B. Vow to keep going until The Prize is gained.
I'll guarantee you, that if you were to sit down and have a talk with someone who has enjoyed great success in his or her life, irrespective of their field of endeavor, there's one thing that I guarantee you they'll all have in common and that commonality will be this. They all failed miserably at some point in their lives and were thus extremely disappointed, even in some cases despondent. However, they did not allow their disappointments to stop them from continuing to follow their dreams, thus they eventually ended up by being very successful. You My Friend, MUST do the same.
o Think about it!
Visit my Website at: www.dpaulreilly.com
Listen to "Time to Think" the radio program on STAR 106.5 FM at 8:55 a.m. & 6:20 p.m.
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June 02, 2014
A total of five Bahamians will represent their respective schools at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Track and Field Championships, from June 11-14, in Eugene, Oregon.
The city of Eugene, which is known as Track Town, USA, just hosted some of the world's best athletes at the Prefontaine Classic this past weekend, and now, the best collegiate athletes in the United States, will head there for the NCAA Championships.
Four of the five Bahamians who qualified for the NCAA finals this past weekend, came out of the west region. Competing at the NCAA West Preliminaries on their home field at the University of Arkansas, Raymond Higgs and Tamara Myers had huge performances in the jumps to qualify in two events each.
Higgs fed off the Razorbacks crowd at the John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to post the top qualifying distance in the men's long jump. The Arkansas senior had a best jump of 7.77 meters (m) - 25' 6" - to easily qualify last Thursday. He came back two days later and qualified third in the men's triple jump, with a best jump of 15.92m (52' 2-3/4").
Myers qualified for the NCAA finals in the same two events. The Arkansas junior had the third-best qualifying leap in the women's long jump, a personal best jump of 6.31m (20' 8-1/2"). In the triple jump, she qualified fourth, with a leap of 13.01m (42' 8-1/4").
In the short sprints, Shavez Hart and Tynia Gaither qualified in two events each.
Hart, a junior at Texas A&M University, ran 10.27 seconds in both the preliminary and semi-final round of the men's 100m. He ran 20.60 seconds in the qualifying round of the men's 200m, and 20.43 seconds in the semis, to qualify for Eugene with the third fastest time coming out of the west. His time in the 100m was good enough for second in his semi-final heat and 11th overall, but he was an automatic qualifier as the top three in each heat plus the next three fastest times qualified.
Hart will also run as a member of Texas A&M's 4x100m relay team, which posted the top qualifying time of 38.84 seconds.
Gaither, a junior at the University of Southern California (USC), continues to impress every time she hits the track. She didn't have one of her better outings in the 100m, but was superb in the 200m, and ended up qualifying for Eugene in both events.
Gaither ran 11.58 seconds in the opening round of the women's 100m, and 11.63 seconds in the semis, but still qualified for the NCAA Finals as she was third in her semi-final heat and 15th overall. The top three in each heat and the next three fastest times qualified for the NCAA Finals. In the 200m, Gaither ran a personal best time of 22.88 seconds in the semis, after coming out of the opening round, in 23.16 seconds. Her stunning time in the semis was the fifth fastest.
Gaither will also run on Southern Cal's sprint relay team, as they qualified third overall, in 43.55 seconds.
Three other Bahamians competed in the west preliminaries this past weekend, but all three failed to qualify.
Trevorvano Mackey, a junior at Texas Tech, ran 21.07 seconds in the semis of the men's 200m after qualifying out of the opening round, in 20.97 seconds. He finished 19th overall.
Te'Shon Adderly, a senior at Minnesota, ran 2:07.34 in the semi-finals of the women's 800m after qualifying out of the opening round in 2:07.72. She finished 14th overall.
Kenya Culmer, a senior at Southern Illinois, failed to qualify in the women's high jump. She posted a best leap of 1.67m (5' 5-3/4"), which was tied for 31st overall.
Just one Bahamian qualified for the NCAA Finals out of the east region.
Teray Smith, a freshman at Auburn, ran 20.68 seconds, in the semi-finals of the men's 200m to qualify for Eugene with the eighth fastest time. He ran 20.98 seconds in the opening round heat.
The other Bahamians at the east preliminaries weren't so fortunate.
V'Alonee Robinson, a senior at Auburn, could only muster a time of 11.68 seconds in the semi-finals of the women's 100m. That time was only good enough for 22nd overall. Robinson ran 11.75 seconds in the opening round heats. Bahamian Tayla Carter, a sophomore at Western Carolina University, also took part in the women's 100m. She was 38th overall, in 11.94 seconds. Carter also ran in the 200m, and was 38th overall in that event, with a time of 24.10 seconds.
In the men's 400m, Florida State senior Alonzo Russell qualified out of the opening round but failed to get out of the semis. He posted times of 46.65 and 46.37 seconds respectively, finishing 14th overall in the semis. Russell will get a chance to run as a part of Florida State's 4x400m relay team though. The Seminoles qualified eighth overall, in 3:04.95.
Earl Rahming, a senior at Western Carolina, also ran in the men's 400m, but failed to get out of the opening round. He finished 38th overall, in 47.40 seconds. Alfred Higgs, a senior at South Florida, took part in the men's 100m, and was 43rd overall, in 11.49 seconds.
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