Nassau Guardian Stories

The good, the bad and the ugly

June 30, 2015

Dear Editor,
Many years ago, when I was growing up as a boy in New Providence, there was a series of what were then called 'spaghetti western movies'. One of the more memorable ones was called: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, starring the American actor, Clint Eastwood.
Eastwood, of course, played the benign role of 'the good'. The late American actor, Eli Wallace played the dubious role of 'the bad' while another American actor (whose name escapes me right now) played the critical role of 'the ugly'.
We have characters, politically, in The Bahamas who closely resemble and act like those actors. We have our beloved prime minister who is generally perceived to be 'the good' personality. I have no doubt that Christie, is a good man but one must ask the question: Is he still relevant and is it possible that his shelf life may have expired?
Christie has spent four decades in front line politics. He has, I submit, given it his all. It is most unfortunate that in this time he has miserably failed, in my view, to create that elusive legacy which he so craves. He has had his chances at bat, so to speak, and it is high time for some other equally talented Bahamian to be allowed to step up to the plate.
Partisans of Christie say that there is still a lot more that he has to do as if there is some compelling reason for him to continue to stick around like the proverbial sore thumb. There are many deluded individuals here in this wonderful nation of ours. Others are susceptible, at the drop of a hat, to seeing holograms, ghosts and dead people. These comprise the unenviable ranks of 'the bad'. I wonder who we can refer to as 'the ugly'?
Among 'the bad' are some of those individuals who are in Christie's inner circle and who prop him up on a daily basis to firmly believe that only he, Christie, has the Chinese coconuts to govern The Bahamas. It has been the misfortune of the average Bahamian to be subjected to cronyism, favoritism and the development of a personality cult around our so called leaders.
Instead of governance being about the encouragement of national and personal development we see instead the mad rush by selected individuals and their putative leaders to hog up all of the wealth, assets and contracts. By the way, what is the status quo regarding BAMSI and Audley Hanna?
We see more 'bad' when one looks at crime and punishment and the dysfunctional judicial system. The members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, from Commissioner Greenslade right down to the ordinary officer who walks the beat, are doing an excellent policing job, bar none. I could care less about the wild-eyed diatribe by Christie against the police the other day. He obviously resides in another dimension or, possibly, the Twilight Zone 2.0.
The 'ugly' truth is that we are not progressing as a nation. Yes, there is some degree of economic activity, but is it enough to increase the anemic annual growth rate? The logical answer is no.
There is also a modicum of 'ugly' in the fact that Christie, historically, is known as an indecisive leader. No one who considers him/herself a leader should ever be seen to be double minded, as Christie often comes across. A leader's word, in essence, must stand for something tangible.
More 'ugly' comes into play when one applies for a governmental job, contract or housing. If you are female, more than likely you will be sexually propositioned and compromised. If you are a male you will be expected to regurgitate a percentage to 'the power/s that be'. Housing has long been used as a political football and a chip for all sorts of nebulous things and desires.
People who are qualified have been waiting for decades in some cases just to be assigned a home constructed on governmental land. Oftentimes, such houses are shabbily constructed and thousands of dollars have to be further expended to make them livable.
We need fresh leadership and we need it before the end of this year. No doubt, Baha Mar will be open in time for the October PLP convention, come hell or high water, as I am sure that the administration would wish to showcase itself. We may now expect all sorts of additional concessions and financial bones to be thrown at the principals down there.
Once the complex is opened, let the convention begin. Christie must demit office by the end of this year and certainly before Christmas Day. Common Cause and The National Republican Alliance (ARENA) have drawn the line in the sand. We who are 'true' PLPs have already started to clean house.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip "Brave" Davis fired Fort Charlotte MP Andre Rollins from the post of chairman of the Gaming Board. Rollins has now packed up his georgie bundle. Greg Moss left sometime before Rollins but he too should never have been embraced by the PLP.
We are prepared to keep Renward Wells but he will have to shut up and sit small. He is capable of being rehabilitated, if he so desires.
Any more of his half-baked antics and political posturing could be a form of political suicide. He was once 'dismissed' at the behest of Brave et al, and we could bring him back into the fold after a sufficient period of inner reflection.
The good, the bad and the ugly is now being played out and the movie will soon come to an end. Senior actors, who are now beginning to show flaws after being on Broadway for so long, will either exit the stage voluntarily or they will be obliged to creep out into the night with their proverbial tails between their legs.
PLPs know Brave. He is a straight shooter. Brave does not have to be flamboyant, even though he is, to persuade the vast majority of delegates and council members to support him.
When you support Brave you are supporting the continuation of the party in governance; honesty and inherent decency; fiscal and economic responsibility and, most important, a hard working and focused individual.
If you want a vacuous pretender to lead the PLP, do not look to Brave but to the others who have come out or those who yet remain in the political closet. To God then, in all things, be the glory!

- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.

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Answers needed on the collapse at Cable Beach

June 30, 2015

We all knew the $3.5 billion Baha Mar project at Cable Beach was in trouble. We all, however, were surprised at the actions taken yesterday by the Baha Mar chairman and CEO, Sarkis Izmirlian, and his company.
Baha Mar announced that it filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware. From our reporting it did not appear as if Prime Minister Perry Christie and his Cabinet knew this would happen. It was also unclear if Baha Mar's Chinese partners, China Construction America and the Export-Import Bank of China, knew what Izmirlian and his company were doing.
It is clear from the pages and pages of filings in the U.S. court that this bankruptcy was planned for months. It is an insult to the Bahamian people that our elected officials were not informed of it before it was done. Concessions were extended to Baha Mar by The Bahamas. This goodwill appears to have been met with contempt.
Like most Bahamians, Christie has been a cheerleader for this deal. It was Christie who during his first term as prime minister tied this country to what appears now to be a bad idea. He has remained a cheerleader for the project as it has had its problems with its lead contractor and financier. Yesterday, however, Christie should have taken a different course. The prime minister's statement after the bankruptcy announcement was inadequate.
"The government remains hopeful that with the continued exertion of good faith efforts by all concerned, the Baha Mar resort will not only open soon but will fulfill its promise as an important new dimension in Bahamian and regional tourism and one that will represent a major contributor to Bahamian employment," Christie said in a statement.
It is estimated that Baha Mar employs 2,000 people. Many of these people left their secure well-paying jobs to pursue the dream Izmirlian was selling. Now that this resort is in bankruptcy it is likely that many of these people will end up unemployed. Their current employer seems to have no money and their former employers have moved on from them, either hiring replacements or making due with fewer workers.
Baha Mar owes Bahamian businesses and entities tens of millions of dollars. In a best-case scenario those people, companies and state agencies may get cents on the dollar.
Christie must realize that the time for cheerleading this deal under the leadership of Izmirlian is over. He needs to find out the answers to several very important questions about this situation and inform the Bahamian people.
When this deal was revised by the last Free National Movement (FNM) administration the Bahamian people thought that the Chinese bank was lending money to Baha Mar with the land at Cable Beach as the security. Now Izmirlian seemingly wants the American courts to decide the future of this development, usurping the Chinese.
The Bahamian people want to know what are the specifics of the dispute between Izmirlian and the Chinese. They want to know which of Izmirlian's companies owns the land at Cable Beach and what is the relationship of that land to the loan by the Chinese. Bahamians want to know how long this bankruptcy is expected to play out before clear ownership can emerge able to finish the development.
The collapse of Baha Mar has the potential to send contagion across our economy. The banks that extended loans to Baha Mar employees are likely now sitting on more bad debt. Bahamian businesses that invested in retail at the hotel now have capital tied up that they can't get out. Bahamian sub-contractors working in construction could incur significant losses, as they have to find money out of pocket to pay employees for work already done on Baha Mar with little hope of ever getting all of the money they are owed.
The country needs the prime minister to "believe in Bahamians" and demand answers from Izmirlian. Christie should then address the nation on what is really happening. We don't need our prime minister parroting the spin of Baha Mar. Bahamians now have little faith in the development. We need facts to be able to assess just how much of a disaster this is.

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High jump history for The Bahamas!

June 29, 2015

For the first time ever, three high jumpers have qualified to represent The Bahamas at the International Association of Athletic Federations' (IAAF) World Championships.
It's been a sporadic season for all three, but everything came together at the right time, as they all met the qualifying height of 2.28 meters (m) - 7' 5-3/4" - at the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC)/Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) National Open Track and Field Championships, at the original Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium over the weekend.
The youngster, Ryan Ingraham, won the competition based on number of knockdowns. Former World Champion Donald Thomas was second, and former World bronze medalist Trevor Barry was third. Thomas was the only one of the three who had previously qualified for the Beijing World Championships, set for August 22-30 at Beijing's National Stadium, otherwise known as the "Bird's Nest", in Beijing, China.
Leap of Faith jumps club coach James Rolle, Ingraham's personal coach, said that it's a joy to have all three Bahamians qualified for the event at the highest competition globally.
"Being a former high jumper, and now a coach, it's a good feeling to have all three of these guys qualify for the worlds. This is the pinnacle of athletics competition, and to have all three of them take part, is a remarkable accomplishment for The Bahamas. This is history in the making right here," said Rolle. "I was proud and I'm very happy for all of the jumpers. A lot of big things are going on in the jumps. I want everyone to keep their eyes open. There is lot more to come."
Battling back from an injury that hampered his progress over the past two years, Barry soared his highest since the 2012 season with his clearance of 2.28m on Saturday. The 32-year-old Barry has a personal best height of 2.32m (7' 7-1/4"), done on his first attempt to win the bronze medal at the Daegu World Championships four years ago.
Thomas, 30, has been steadily around the 2.30m (7' 6-1/2") mark this season. He jumped 2.31m (7' 6-3/4") indoors and 2.28m outdoors coming into the nationals. Thomas has a personal best jump of 2.35m (7' 8-1/2"), done on a couple of occasions, more notably at the 2007 Osaka World Championships to win the world title. He hasn't cleared that height since.
Thomas and Barry competed at the London Olympic Games three years ago, but neither made the final, but a year later, both Thomas and Ingraham advanced to the final at the Moscow World Championships. Barry missed the nationals that year with his injury, and consequently missed the trip to Moscow, Russia for the world championships. In Moscow, Thomas finished sixth, clearing 2.32m, and Ingraham finished in a three-way tie for 10th as he could only muster a height of 2.25m (7' 4-1/2").
Thomas has had an up-and-down season, and up until the nationals, both Barry and Ingraham had struggled. Barry and Ingraham had modest season best performances of just 2.23m (7' 3-3/4") and 2.21m (7' 3") going into Saturday's competition. Thomas and Barry have world medals, and the youngster Ingraham is looking for his breakthrough moment at a major international competition. Ingraham is just 21-years-old.
"The future is bright for the high jump event in The Bahamas," said Coach Rolle yesterday. "I saw this (three Bahamian high jumpers qualifying for the world championships) happening from 2012 when Ryan qualified 'B' standard for the Olympics and both Donald and Trevor qualified 'A' standard. I thought we could have had three jumpers at the worlds in 2013, but a lil injury kept Trevor back. This year, all three guys just showed what they could do. This is their time."
As for his jumper Ingraham, who has a personal best jump of 2.30m (7' 6-1/2"), Rolle said that sky is the limit for him. Rolle has been coaching Ingraham in the Leap of Faith jumps club for the past four years.
"I was basically training him to get ready for nationals, meets in Europe and then the worlds. He really wants to go to the worlds and be in the top five or even the top three, and I think we're right on target to accomplish that," said Rolle. "Everything is on point right now. To me, Ryan has the ability to jump close to 2.40 (7' 10-1/2"). He was over-thinking his jumps too much, so at nationals, I just told him to go out there, relax, and have fun. He went out there and won the competition with a season's best."
Now all three jumpers are bound for Beijing - ready to represent The Bahamas at the highest level in the men's high jump.
It will be interesting to see how they fare in the Chinese capital at the end of August.

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The Bahamas awarded 2016 CISC and 2017 CARIFTA Championships

June 29, 2015

The sport of swimming continues to gain momentum in the country, as one of the top meets in the region is set to hit the shores of The Bahamas next year.
According to Bahamas Swimming Federation (BSF) President Algernon Cargill, The Bahamas has been awarded the 2016 edition of the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships (CISC).
"This is a meet of all of the Caribbean islands, whether they be Spanish, French or Dutch. They will be coming here next year," said Cargill at the BSF's swimming nationals this past weekend. "The meet is at a higher level one than CARIFTA, and we expect to host a very good meet next year. We will be seeking corporate Bahamas' support for those championships, and we're just excited because this will be our first time hosting a meet of this caliber."
In addition to the upcoming CISC, The Bahamas will host the 2017 CARIFTA Swimming Championships, set for the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Swim Complex here in New Providence.
Earlier in the week, Cargill was named to two international posts, including being the representative for the Caribbean on the International Swimming Federation's (FINA) bureau. FINA is the international governing body for swimming. Cargill feels that his new positions will help The Bahamas to bring more events like CISC to the country, and to really help raise the level of swimming in The Bahamas as a whole.
"This just showcases the excellent work that we are doing, not only in the pool, but administratively, in our federation. Receiving the recognition of my colleagues around the swimming world, and to be successful in those elections over the CCCAN (Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation) president and former president, tells us that, although we are a very small country in swimming, we are being well recognized," said Cargill. "I was also elected to represent us an executive at UANA (Swimming Union of the Americas) and I will start the term immediately following the Pan American Games. Being a Bahamian and being elected to this level, it certainly says a lot about the work we put into making our federation one of the premier federations in the Caribbean."
A number of local swimmers qualified for international competitions this past weekend at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)/BSF National Swimming Championships. The FINA sanctioned event served as one of the region's final qualifiers for the 17th Pan American Games in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the 16th FINA World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia. The Pan Ams is set for July 10-26, and the FINA Worlds is set for July 24 to August 9.
The nationals also served as a qualifier for next year's Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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Wahoo Smackdown VII tournament dates announced

June 29, 2015

ALICE TOWN, Bimini -- Heading into its fourth wahoo fishing season, the popular Wahoo Smackdown Series is returning for its seventh engagement at the world renowned Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina.
Tournament dates have been announced for November 12-14, 2015. Last November, a record 29 boats participated in the tournament with heaviest fish honors (47.6 pounds) going to team Cash Out. The heaviest five fish over two days trophy went to team Fishin a Loan.
For information regarding Wahoo Smackdown VII tournament participation or sponsorship, the public is asked to go to the website www.biggameclubbimini.com or call (800) 867-4764.
The 51-room Big Game Club Resort & Marina, managed by the Horizon Hotel Group www.horizonhotelgroup.com, is a popular, internationally-regarded resort less than 50 miles from South Florida. The property is known for world-class diving and snorkeling, fishing and as a family-friendly destination with many on-the-water activities, including kayaking, paddle boarding, boating and sailing.

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Baha Mar filing hints at lawsuits against China Construction

June 29, 2015

The resolutions of the board of directors of Baha Mar Ltd. (BML) - adopted June 29, 2015 - foreshadow the company's contemplation of lawsuits in connection with contracts for the design and construction of Baha Mar, the management of those contracts and the financial guarantees received in connection with some or all of those contracts.
While the company was not named in the bankruptcy filings, China Construction America (CCA) - the partly state-owned Chinese general contractor in charge of construction of the $3.5 billion mega-resort - has come under intense criticism from Baha Mar in recent months. In fact, the company has lashed out at Baha Mar, calling criticisms of its work standards inappropriate. The relationship between the two has
deteriorated to such an extent that Prime Minister Perry Christie was obliged to become personally involved in the negotiations once construction stalled on the so-called Cable Beach Riviera.
Indeed, even in the press release issued yesterday, Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian said, "The general contractor repeatedly has missed construction deadlines. This has caused both sizeable delay costs and forced the resort to postpone its opening. Unable to open, the resort has been left without a sufficient source of revenue to continue our existing business."
Izmirlian said in the statement yesterday that Baha Mar sought the help of its major lender - the China Ex-Im Bank - to bring to fruition the completion of construction and the successful opening of the resort, even to the extent of being willing to invest more of its own funds to help cover the delay costs.
"Unfortunately, our efforts, as well as those of the Bahamian government, have not accomplished that objective. Construction on the project remains incomplete and, consequently, we have not been in a position to set a revised opening date. Thus, the Chapter 11 process is the best path for Baha Mar to now undertake," Izmirlian said.
The board's resolutions were contained in a supporting document appended to BML's chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which stunned the country late yesterday afternoon and sent some of the resort's most substantial partners into hastily convened board meetings.
Indeed, there was reportedly an emergency Cabinet meeting last night as well, and Guardian Business was given to understand that the government was unaware of the company's intention to file for bankruptcy in the U.S. In fact, no fewer than two Cabinet ministers over the last two weeks put their credibility on the line to say on the record that Prime Minister Perry Christie - through his personal intervention and efforts - had virtually secured a deal, and that it was up to Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian to seal it.
BML is a Bahamian International Business Corporation (IBC).
The BML board of directors considered materials presented by its financial, legal and other advisors and held numerous discussions regarding those materials and the liabilities and liquidity situation of the company, the strategic alternatives available to it, and the impact of the foregoing on the company's businesses and operations.
Given the substance of those discussions, the board decided its best option was a voluntary petition under the provisions of Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.
The BML board resolved to file for bankruptcy protection "in the best interests of the company, its shareholders, creditors and other stakeholders and parties in interest including, without limitation, the direct and indirect subsidiaries of the company".
In addition to filing for Chapter 11 relief, the company either filed or intended to file - it is not yet clear - a corresponding proceeding in the Supreme Court of The Bahamas under Part VIIA of the Companies (Winding Up Amendment) Act, 2011 (CWUAA). That filing would designate Northshore Mainland Services Inc., a Delaware corporation, as the foreign representative of each of the Chapter 11 debtors in connection with the International Co-Operation Proceeding (the "foreign representative").
Baha Mar President Thomas M. Dunlap and Executive Vice President Whitney Thier were designated by the board to take any and all action that they deem necessary or proper to obtain such relief, including, without limitation, any action necessary to maintain the ordinary course operation of the company's business.
The company has retained Glinton Sweeting O'Brien ("GSO") as general Bahamian counsel to represent and assist BML and its subsidiaries in carrying out their duties under the CWUAA and to take any and all actions to advance the company's and its subsidiaries' rights and obligations, including filing any pleadings in the International Co-Operation Proceeding. The firm has also been retained as counsel to represent and assist the foreign representative - Northshore Mainland Services - in carrying out its duties under the CWUAA and to take any and all actions to advance the foreign representative's rights and obligations, including filing any pleadings in the international co-operation proceeding.
In addition to retaining a number of other firms, the company has also retained Kobre & Kim LLP (Kobre & Kim) as special litigation counsel to represent and assist the company in contemplated litigation. It is anticipated that Kobre & Kim will represent in issues relating to the rights and remedies connected with the various contracts concerning the design and construction of the Baha Mar development, the management of those contracts and the financial guarantees received in connection with some or all of those contracts. It is expected that such litigation will include causes of action in tort and equity. Kobre & Kim will be charged with advancing its client's interests by filing any pleadings and commencing one or more legal proceedings.
The company has also retained Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro LLP (Glaser Weil) as construction counsel for related purposes to that in respect of Kobre & Kim.
The board also authorized Dunlap and Thier to terminate the employment of any of the company's employees on behalf of the company. This includes but is not limited to layoffs of all or substantially all of the employees. Dunlap and Thier are also authorized to pay or cause to be paid severance or other payments to terminated employees, in accordance with local law.

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Bahamian companies among Baha Mar top 20 creditors owed millions

June 29, 2015

Baha Mar Ltd. yesterday filed for bankruptcy in the U.S., and among the supporting documents was a consolidated list of creditors holding the 20 largest unsecured claims against Baha Mar Ltd. totaling upward of $120 million.
Documents obtained by Guardian Business revealed that hitherto unknown debtor Northshore Mainland Services Inc. (Northshore) along with certain of its affiliates under the heading of Baha Mar Ltd. filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S' Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Although the list of top 20 creditors contains a mix of Bahamian and U.S.-based companies, the top three creditors, China Construction America (CCA) Bahamas, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and Yates-Osprey Joint Venture, are all Bahamian entities.
CCA Bahamas Ltd. held the lion's share of the outstanding claims against Baha Mar, with a hefty claim of $72,635,100. BEC follows with a $19.5 million claim, while construction firm Yates-Osprey is owed $5,281,681.
Other Bahamian firms cited in the top creditor list include: TBI Caribbean Co Ltd. ($2,353,638); Cable Bahamas ($1,435,631); Cable Beach Resort Association ($1,219,372); and Island Site Development ($1,153,050).
However, these creditors represent only the tip of the iceberg. The initial filing indicates that the complete list of creditors includes 1,000 to 5,000 creditors.
The filing further revealed Baha Mar's organization structure, which indicates that Northshore is a subsidiary of Baha Mar Operating Company Ltd., which in falls under Baha Mar Ltd. At the top of the chain, however, is BML Properties Ltd.
In a shocking move, given the recent pronouncements of Prime Minister Perry Christie and others in his Cabinet, Baha Mar Ltd. CEO and Chairman Sarkis Izmirlian announced yesterday that the company and its associated entities were voluntarily filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It came just over a week after Christie stated that he had received "encouraging" news regarding the long standing impasse between general constructor CCA and Baha Mar Ltd.
A press release issued yesterday afternoon stressed that the move is necessary to ensure that the long delayed resort would open as soon as possible. In the release, Izmirlian repeatedly blamed general contractor CCA for missed construction deadlines, which in turn led to multiple postponed openings at considerable cost to Baha Mar Ltd.
"Unfortunately, our efforts, as well as those of the Bahamian government, have not accomplished that objective. Construction on the project remains incomplete and, consequently, we have not been in a position to set a revised opening date. Thus, the Chapter 11 process is the best path for Baha Mar to now undertake," Izmirlian stated.
The entities concurrently filing for Chapter 11 under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the District of Delaware with respect to Baha Mar are: Northshore Mainland Services Inc. (9087); Baha Mar Enterprises Ltd.; Baha Mar Entertainment Ltd.; Baha Mar Land Holdings Ltd.; Baha Mar Leasing Company Ltd.; Baha Mar Ltd.; Baha Mar Operating Company Ltd.; Baha Mar Properties Ltd.; Baha Mar Sales Company Ltd.; Baha Mar Support Services Ltd.; BML Properties Ltd.; BMP Golf Ltd.; BMP Three Ltd.; Cable Beach Resorts Ltd.; and Riviera Golf Ventures Ltd.

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Sir William hails VAT implementation

June 29, 2015

Outgoing Chairman of Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) Sir William Allen - after painting a bleak portrait of the Bahamian economy, which he says shows "anemic" growth and generally "remarkably unimpressive" performance - hailed the implementation of value-added tax (VAT) and said implementing an aggressive energy policy "could represent a sea of change in our circumstances".
Sir William said the apparent inability of the Bahamian economy to generate the dynamism necessary to have a major impact on unemployment, coupled with the abiding sense of needing to secure ever higher levels of foreign direct investment to balance international payments and the impression of an economy too long at the brink of a breakthrough, suggests there may be a need for change in some of our basic economic arrangements.
Writing in his chairman's report - contained in the bank's 2014 Annual Report, released over the weekend - Sir William said the first such change may have already occurred.
"The implementation of VAT creates the opportunity for arresting the ever-increasing level of national debt and once again restoring confidence in public finances. Such confidence is hugely important to long-term planning in both the private and public sectors," he said.
Sir William has long been associated, however loosely, with the idea of implementing value-added tax in The Bahamas. For example, in a 1995 interview with The Courier, Sir William - serving at the time as minister of finance and planning in the first Ingraham administration - talked about The Bahamas being "philosophically against income tax", and said some other form of indirect taxation such as VAT "might be a possibility". Such a system would not mean a great deal of difference for retailers or consumers, he suggested at the time, since the current price of goods in The Bahamas includes any customs duties that have been levied.
And later, as the Christie administration approached implementation of the tax, Sir William warned that to do so without a reduction in current revenue measures was "a recipe for recession". This was against the backdrop of the administration's initial proposal of VAT, to be implemented at 15 percent on July 1, 2014.
Fast forward to the FBB annual report for 2014, and Sir William writing that the stage was set for "significant progress in fiscal consolidation" with the successful implementation of VAT.
Sir William also targeted the high cost and inefficiency in our production and distribution of electricity.
"There can be little doubt that this represents an enormous burden on the Bahamian economy as a silent killer of profits and opportunity. If this burden cannot be addressed, it is doubtful that the vibrancy of the Bahamian economy will ever be unleashed again," he said. "And if it truly is that relief is now in sight, as is being promised, this could represent a sea change in our circumstances."
Sir William added that the historical hugeness of the current account of The Bahamas' balance of payments has been a monumental drag on the country's resources over the years and has prevented The Bahamas from building reserves surpluses despite the considerable foreign investments the country has traditionally attracted.
Dealing with this imbalance is complex and could involve many moving parts, but the end result of a successful outcome would be a net reduction in the deficit on the current account. In point of fact, one of the positive outcomes that can result from a successful energy/electricity policy would be a reduction of the deficit on the current account primarily as a consequence of any reduction in the oil import bill.
He added that reliance on growth in the United States and the global economy as a sufficient condition to restore vibrancy to the Bahamian economy seems a doubtful proposition now, and suggested a 'retooling' of the country's own economic situation.

Sir William said FBB has learned how to prosper in weak economic circumstances and has been doing that remarkably well. But the sustainability of such a strategy in the long run has to eventually betray its limited shelflife.
Still, he reported that during 2014, Fidelity expanded its assets by more than six percent, and increased its net income by 45 percent. Its return on average assets was higher for the year, as also were its earnings per share.

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Miller says Baha Mar losing 500K a day

June 29, 2015

Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Chairman Leslie Miller yesterday stated that top government officials should immediately leave for Beijing and should not return "until they have a deal sealed" in the wake of Baha Mar Ltd.'s decision to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Speaking with Guardian Business in the aftermath of the breaking of the news last night, Miller said that the clock is ticking on the $3.5 billion resort, stating that the building could be ruined within a six-month window of inactivity, necessitating costly renovations if negotiations between developer Baha Mar Ltd. and general contractor China Construction America continue to falter.
"I think that the government can now appreciate the urgency in going to Beijing, sitting with all the players, and getting it done... Whatever it takes, don't come back to this country until you have a deal sealed.
"A building is a living entity and if you leave it there it will die. Death comes to a building very quickly once it's sitting there morbid. So it's imperative that everyone steps to the plate and do what needs to be done," said Miller.
Files submitted to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware reveal that Baha Mar Ltd. owes its top 20 creditors roughly $120 million. Of that sum, BEC is owed $19.5 million. However, Miller said yesterday that the actual debt totaled $24 million largely comprised of the former Crystal Palace's legacy debt to the utility.
"The bill for BEC is really a bill that came over when it was the Crystal Palace, so when they changed hands, that bill was there, but it is their bill. I think it's $24 million now," Miller said, adding that the long long-outstanding debt did not present an immediate concern for BEC.
When asked whether he thought BEC would suffer as one of the top creditors, Miller said that any impact would be minimal, given the debt's age. Instead, Miller stressed the need for Baha Mar to succeed above all else, stating that it was frankly "too big to fail" and was already hemorrhaging money.
"It is too big to fail. That's how I see Baha Mar. It's such a vital cog in our economy we cannot let it fail... I don't care how much money is lost, it still has to be done, and right now they're losing about a half a million [dollars] a day," Miller said.
Baha Mar CEO and Chairman Sarkis Izmirlian announced yesterday that the company and its associated entities were voluntarily filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The news came just over a week after Prime Minister Perry Christie stated that he had received "encouraging" news regarding the long-standing impasse between general constructor CCA and Baha Mar Ltd.
Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe and Minister of Immigration and Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell both expressed surprise when informed of the move after both had separately voiced optimism regarding the mega resort's opening.
"I don't know if the right hand knew what the left hand was thinking, but I know one thing, as I indicated from the beginning, persons from here should've gone to Beijing," said Miller.
Ultimately, though, Miller believed that the resort would emerge "a little stronger and hopefully healthier financially" from the experience as it seeks an opening date.

Government intervention
Miller stated that the Bahamian government needs to play a "pivotal role" in ensuring that the resort is completed and opened in short order. Miller added that he thinks an agreement could be made with either Christie or Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis at the helm of negotiations if they leave for China immediately.
Despite the troubles facing the project, Miller said that future negotiations present a "grand opportunity" for top PLP officials to bring hope to the Bahamian people and end the deadlock crippling Baha Mar's development.
"Now more than ever a team needs to leave this country almost immediately, go to China, sit down and work this situation out on behalf of the Bahamian people... This can only be done now from a government-to-government level," he said.
As part of the Chapter 11 filing, Izmirlian agreed to arrange the funding for the debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing facility, which will enable Baha Mar to "operate and meet its financial obligations in the interim during the Chapter 11 process", according to a Baha Mar press statement. The total DIP facility is up to $80 million, of which up to $30 million will be utilized by Baha Mar over the next 30 days.

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Commonwealth members pledge hundreds of thousands, technical support

June 29, 2015

Malaysia has pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the Commonwealth of Learning, and India has pledged resources to the initiative as well. The pledges are contained in The Nassau Declaration, issued yesterday in the aftermath of the 19th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (19CCEM), held in The Bahamas last week.
The declaration outlines the major topics and issues discussed at 19CCEM as well as the major remedial initiatives proposed, among which was Malaysia's pledge, given to support the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) initiative.

Nassau Declaration highlights
Malaysia has committed US$200,000 to help the COL achieve its strategic plan, plus just over US$53,000 toward the establishment, and US$132,647 a year from 2014 through 2018 toward the administration of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Facility (CTEF).
Meanwhile, India has offered to provide its e-learning platform, SWAYAM, to host e-courseware developed by the Commonwealth of Learning, and has also volunteered to post digitized learning material of Commonwealth countries on its anticipated national e-library, with links to the Commonwealth education hub.
Ministers also recommitted themselves to what the declaration termed "appropriate domestic financing of education, to the level of four to six percent of GDP, or 15 to 20 percent of total public expenditure, as well as the wider targets established for official development assistance (ODA), including targets of 0.7 percent of gross national product (GNP) for ODA to developing countries".
And another highlight of the declaration is the agreement to establish a Commonwealth Accelerated Development Mechanism for Education (CADME) to assist with the implementation of the SDGs in Commonwealth countries.

A deeper look
The 19CCEM was held at Atlantis, Paradise Island, from June 22-26, 2015. Among the highlights of the conference was the official inclusion of a specific forum for small states. In the declaration, ministers celebrated this as a significant and positive step in ensuring that the voice of small states continues to be heard on the world stage, given that 31 of the 53 Commonwealth nations are small states.
Likewise, the role of education for building resilience is championed by ministers as a key factor in combating issues of vulnerability, particularly those faced by small states, such as climate change, migration, mobility and financing.
Citing the need for "evidence-based interventions and policy", the declaration commits to a definition of the "core purpose" of education that includes serving the needs of diverse populations, furthering international drives for sustainable development, and equitable, high quality provision, while recognizing the continued role of education in supporting efforts for economic growth and poverty eradication, as well as acting as a tool for socialization.
On "gender", the education ministers of the Commonwealth committed to continue to build on good practice in promoting sensitive gender mainstreaming for gender equity, including reducing barriers to girls education, and addressing specific concerns over the under-achievement of either boys or girls in Commonwealth contexts in which either faces specific challenges.
The role of technology was also a focus of the declaration, with ministers committing to making effective use of technology and innovation in ICT (information and communication technology) to ensure that education systems continue to meet the needs of quality, equity and access.
"The significance of online learning as a universal tool for lifelong learning is recognized by ministers, and the key role of the Commonwealth of Learning in driving innovation in this field is recognized," the declaration noted.
On the role of teachers, the declaration contained a commitment to raising the status of teaching as a profession, saying: "This will be achieved by enhancing pre-service and continuing professional development, and conditions of service, ensuring that teachers are motivated and supported in the classroom. Ministers reaffirm the importance of effective governance of teaching to promote accountability and transparency."
The declaration noted that India had offered to set up a Malaviya Commonwealth Chair For Teacher Education, which would focus on issues pertaining to curriculum development, pedagogy, students' assessment, pre-service and continuing professional training and capacity development.
In the section on "youth," ministers reaffirm the key role that entrepreneurship education plays in promoting unique and valuable life skills, as well as career pathways.
"Ministers are committed to the enhancement of curricula at all levels of education to strengthen entrepreneurship programs and skills development", it says.
Among the other areas of focus in the declaration, ministers pronounced on scholarships, research collaborations and the Commonwealth Action Group on Education.

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'Very good response' on VAT filings

June 29, 2015

Financial Secretary John Rolle said yesterday that the Value-Added Tax (VAT) Department is still seeing a "very good response" from the business community in terms of filing and payment but warned that the department is progressing beyond issuing "just the friendly reminder" to late filers.
Speaking at the future site of the Department of VAT and Inland Revenue, Rolle said the VAT Department anticipates more instances of financial penalties as the department shifts its energies to addressing compliance from the consumer's perspective.
"We're now going into the establishment and doing more than just warning and exhorting them to set things right. So where there still may be irregularities in terms of pricing displays or the issuing of VAT receipts and invoices, we are beginning to move away from just the friendly reminder," stated Rolle.
Regarding the overall success in collecting the tax, Rolle stated that he still expects the government to see a $300 million net increase in tax revenue for the fiscal year after recouping approximately $100 million in revenues lost through a suite of tax concessions unveiled during the 2015/2016 budget communication.
"The intake so far continues to line up with expectations in terms of the on-time compliance rate as well as payment of the VAT that has been declared to the government. Overall, we're seeing a very good response. As part of the process, though, there's a very constant and close interaction with businesses to make sure that not only they file their returns on time but that they follow through with payment," said Rolle.
"The actual amount of VAT that the government will collect in both cases will be more than $300 million and more than $150 on a half-yearly basis because the net increase also had to make provisions for about $100 million on a yearly basis from reduced customs duty collections as well as the fact that the government had eliminated the Hotel Room Occupancy Tax," Rolle added.
The VAT Department recently launched a VAT companion app for Apple and Android devices to assist consumers to calculate VAT totals. While the current service allows users to send photos of potentially fraudulent receipts to the VAT Department, Rolle expressed interest in expanding the service's reporting capabilities and hopes to see similar apps to assist with calculating various additional government taxes.

Tax compliance
However, VAT is just one aspect of the government's fiscal reforms to clamp down on outstanding taxes. As of July 1, 2015, all suppliers doing business with the government will require a tax compliance certificate (TCC), which requires such businesses to be current on all of their tax obligations including VAT, customs duties and levies, business license, property tax, road traffic, immigration fees and National Insurance contributions.
"The business public and all government agencies will see an increased emphasis going forward on the use of the TCC," said Rolle.
"It doesn't just apply to the ministries; it applies to all of the corporations that fall under the government so they will all have to be certain that the vendors that they deal with are in possession of up-to-date tax compliance certificates," he added.
Under the Financial Administration and Audit (Amendment) Bill, 2015, a TCC will be required for any persons or businesses submitting a tender for the award of a contract with the government or public body; collecting payment for services rendered under a government-awarded contract worth $10,000 or more; receiving a concession in accordance of any legislation conveying a concession; and registering the ownership of or changing the ownership in any good on which the tax is required to be paid.

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Bahamas economic citizenship 'off the table'

June 29, 2015

Economic citizenship is "off the table" for the foreseeable future, according to Minister of Immigration and Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell.
Speaking on the Guardian Radio talk show "Q & A" with Quincy Parker and Adrian Francis earlier this week, Mitchell said that while the government had looked at the U.S.' EB-5 visa, which provides foreign nationals with a method of obtaining a green card by investing $1 million and creating 10 jobs, it had concluded that The Bahamas' current routes to citizenship are sufficient.
"Economic citizenship is off the table for The Bahamas. I know it's been floated by many people... but the best sense I can get is that it's a non-starter for this country. The best we can offer at the moment is permanent residence with the right to work," said Mitchell.
Under The Bahamas' current immigration policies, foreigners can apply for permanent residence without the right to work after a $500,000 investment in a home or business. Those investing $1.5 million may apply for residence with the right to work with a turnaround of about three weeks. Current laws require that applicants for citizenship remain in the country for at least seven years.
"Those are the best parts of the economic package that we can offer at this time and I don't see that those will change substantially," Mitchell stated.
Although Mitchell touched on the successes St. Kitts and Dominica had experienced through their economic citizenship programs, he doubted whether similar programs would yield comparable results for the Bahamian economy, given the larger scale of The Bahamas' economy.
Portugal notably introduced a similar 'golden visa' program, in which non-EU citizens investing EUR500,000 in real estate were granted a temporary residency permit enabling investors to travel freely within Europe. As of February, the program had attracted EUR1.27 billion of investment in only two years.
However, Portugal tightened the rules behind the program earlier this year after corruption investigations led to the resignations of a minister and several arrests.

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Baha Mar Resort undertakes voluntary Chapter 11 Process

June 29, 2015

Sarkis Izmirlian, chairman and chief executive officer of Baha Mar Ltd., the developer of the Baha Mar resort, today announced that, in order to complete construction and open Baha Mar as soon as practicable, Baha Mar Ltd., and entities associated with it, are voluntarily undertaking the process of Chapter 11 under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The Board of Directors has determined that due to the financial consequences of the repeated delays by the general contractor, and the resulting loss of revenue, the Chapter 11 process is the best path to provide the time to put in place a viable capital structure and working relationships to complete construction and successfully open Baha Mar.

The voluntary Chapter 11 filing has been made in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Baha Mar Ltd. will be filing an application in the Supreme Court of The Commonwealth of the Bahamas seeking approval of the U.S. court orders.

To help assure that we move down this path efficiently, Baha Mar's developer, Sarkis Izmirlian, has agreed to arrange the funding for the Debtor-in-Possession (DIP) financing facility. This financing will, among other things, enable Baha Mar to operate and meet its financial obligations in the interim during the Chapter 11 process. Specifically, the total DIP facility is up to $80 million of which up to $30 million will be utilized by Baha Mar over the next 30 days.

Izmirlian stated, "I am committed to doing all I realistically can to move Baha Mar forward to be completed and opened successfully. I am confident that, once opened, Baha Mar will be a world-class destination resort that will attract guests from around the world and serve as a key economic sparkplug to The Bahamas. The Chapter 11 process provides the appropriate venue to create a viable financial structure that places Baha Mar's interests foremost."

Izmirlian continued, "The general contractor repeatedly has missed construction deadlines. This has caused both sizeable delay costs and forced the resort to postpone its opening. Unable to open, the resort has been left without a sufficient source of revenue to continue our existing business.

"In fact, after the general contractor made a guarantee to us in November 2014, and then again in January 2015, that Baha Mar would be able to open in its entirety on March 27, 2015, we undertook all preparations necessary for this promised opening date, including significant hiring and training of nearly two thousand employees and purchasing of goods and services.

"Indeed, even when we subsequently found out that the March 27 deadline was not feasible because the general contractor had still not completed construction, rather than simply downsizing, we maintained our employment levels in anticipation of a revised opening date, utilizing our financial resources to pay employees to continue their work at the project and participate in volunteer activities around the island for the benefit of the country.

"At the same time, we sought the help of Baha Mar's major lender to bring to fruition the completion of construction and the successful opening of Baha Mar, including informing both the lender and the general contractor of our willingness to invest more of our own funds to help cover the delay costs. Unfortunately, our efforts, as well as those of the Bahamian government, have not accomplished that objective. Construction on the project remains incomplete and, consequently, we have not been in a position to set a revised opening date. Thus, the Chapter 11 process is the best path for Baha Mar to now undertake.

"Baha Mar believes that a negotiated solution is possible among the existing parties to the resort project that would lead to its completion and successful opening. To position ourselves to achieve that goal, and to allow time to explore a consensual solution, Baha Mar will continue for a period to operate and fund payroll.
"We will do our very best to continue to engage the resort's lender to reach a consensual resolution that assures our ability to complete construction and open successfully. However, if we cannot reach a consensual resolution in the next few weeks, we will have to make some extremely difficult decisions that would include workforce reductions."

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Crime down 5

June 29, 2015

Overall crime in The Bahamas was down five percent between January 1, 2015 and June 16, 2015 when compared to the same period last year, according to police statistics.
The statistics show that most major categories were down during this period.
But murders were up 10 percent. There have been more murders since June 16, pushing the count to 73 for the year. This means that murders up to today's date are up 18 percent compared to last year.
While government and law enforcement officials continue to insist that crime overall is down in The Bahamas, they recognize that the increasing murder count is cause for alarm.
On its current pace, the murder count would exceed the 127 murders recorded in 2011, when the country set a record for the most murders ever recorded in a single year.
The statistics up to June 16 show that attempted murder was down 46 percent; there were no manslaughter reports (compared to two during the same period last year); armed robbery was down three percent; robbery was down 45 percent and attempted robbery was down 80 percent.
Those crimes all fall under "crimes against the person", which overall was down 12 percent.
Forty rapes were reported during the period. Forty rapes were also reported during this period last year.
Attempted rapes increased by 75 percent -- from four to seven cases.
Unlawful sexual intercourse increased by nine percent -- from 69 to 75 cases.
Crimes against property were down four percent.
According to the statistics prepared by the Strategic Policy and Planning Branch of the police force, 91 burglaries were recorded between January 1, 2015 and June 16, 2015, a two percent decrease.
Housebreaking was down 25 percent. The number of cases during that period dropped from 845 last year to 637 this year.
Shopbreaking was down two percent -- from 335 cases to 327.
Stealing dropped 14 percent -- from 740 cases to 635.
Stealing from vehicles was up 11 percent -- from 944 to 1,047.
And stolen vehicle crimes climbed 29 percent -- from 348 to 450.
These are the first crime statistics to be revealed since the beginning of the year.
Last week, Minister of National Security Keith Bell claimed the government is winning the war on crime.
Despite a perception to the contrary in some quarters, Bell said the country is safer than it was in 2012 when the Christie administration took office.
"Yes, we are winning," he said, "winning because we have a comprehensive plan to address crime and criminality. We have implemented programs to attack crime and its causes."
Bell's statement came in the Senate while he contributed to debate on the 2015/2016 budget.
A week earlier in the House of Assembly, the budget debate was aborted without Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage contributing to the debate.
Nottage was expected to provide a comprehensive overview of the government's crime-fighting initiatives and reveal elements of its reported new plan to address the crime problem.

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Roberts proposes three strikes law

June 29, 2015

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts has suggested the government revisit its crime-fighting strategies and seriously consider passing a three strikes law, among other measures to curb crime.
In a letter addressed to the PLP's National General Council (NGC) last Thursday, Roberts expressed concern about crime and the proliferation of illegal weapons in The Bahamas.
He recalled a time when it was rare to see a police officer carry a weapon, a contrast to the officers he observed carrying machine guns during a traffic stop in Yellow Elder Gardens last Sunday.
"I refused to accept that this is the kind of Bahamas that was left to our care by our forefathers," Robert said.
In addition to a three strikes law, Roberts recommended that possession of an illegal firearm carry a minimum sentence of 10 to 15 years.
He said 50 to 75 percent of a convicted person's personal assets should also be seized.
Roberts said conviction for possession of a high-powered weapon should result in the forfeiture of 90 percent of personal assets.
The PLP chairman recommended that undercover police officers be placed on all major cargo vessels for a three-month period to limit gun smuggling.
He also suggested the government incentivize people with a financial reward to provide information on arms traffickers.
Roberts said a strong message must be sent to those who trade and use illegal weapons.
He asked the PLP councilors to endorse these recommendations, which he said he first made in 2013.
"The proliferation of guns in The Bahamas should be the number one national security issue," Roberts said.
"It is my view that if we fail to stem the proliferation of guns we can kiss our important tourist industry goodbye."
Roberts also called on all Bahamians to join the crime fight and said people cannot sit on their laurels and expect the government to solve the problem alone.
Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell said last Wednesday that the government is "having great successes" and is "winning" the war on crime.
The Official Opposition has charged that the PLP administration is attempting to fool Bahamians.

PLP has not lost support

Roberts also touched on the resignations of Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins and Marco City MP Greg Moss in his letter.
He said both MPs brought "little or no support" to the PLP and their resignations has not resulted in a loss of support.
He called for stronger background checks of all future candidates.
Rollins resigned from the party after his contribution to the 2015/2016 budget debate in the House of Assembly on June 17.
He said he had no intention of resigning, but after it appeared that the government wanted to prevent him from contributing to the budget debate, things changed.
Moss resigned on June 8 in the House, citing poor leadership both at the party level and at the executive level.

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Mitchell: Baha Mar deal on the table

June 29, 2015

Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday that a deal is "on the table" as it relates to the Baha Mar project at Cable Beach.
However, Mitchell suggested that deal depends on Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian now doing his part.
"The prime minister himself has described how he has been on the phone to the president of the China Export-Import Bank every day for the last week, and the makings of the deal are actually on the table," said Mitchell, who appeared as a guest on the Guardian Radio talk show "Q and A" with hosts Quincy Parker and Adrian Francis.

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Miller calls on churches to mount campaign against same-sex marriage

June 29, 2015

Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller said yesterday he believes now that the United States Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage across that country, The Bahamas "at some point" will be pressured to follow suit.
Miller, who was contacted for comment, said he hopes to never see that day and called on the church to begin mounting a campaign against any such attempt.
"I hope that the churches in this country would now band together and have their say as to what they intend to do because at some point someone is going to try and thrust it upon us as a people," Miller told The Nassau Guardian.
"That leaves me very, very concerned as a parent and as a grandparent.
"When I look at all these Bahamian youngsters around here - this new lifestyle here; I mean, how the hell could a man marry a man?
"What is God saying about all of this? That is what frightens me."
The United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across that country on Friday.
The American justices ruled 5-4 that states cannot deny gays and lesbians the same marriage rights that heterosexual couples enjoy.
According to Miller, people have a right to choose their lifestyle, but he said that lifestyle should never be imposed on society at large.
He said the ruling led him to question whether the second coming is near.
"The Bible says in the last days men will be lovers of men, but now it becomes an acceptable norm?" Miller asked.
"The United States, our great neighbor, I wonder not only where the world is headed, but [about] God's prophecy in the Bible... Are these the last days is what I am getting at."
Miller said despite the majority of people in this country being conservative, he is concerned about the influence the ruling could have on Bahamians, especially the youth.
"I have nothing against the people, but I am very, very concerned about the future and welfare of my grandchildren and other Bahamians at large, especially the young ones, who now see these things so prominently displayed on television," Miller said.
A poll conducted last year January on whether Bahamians support same-sex marriage revealed that 86.5 percent of respondents strongly oppose same-sex marriage; four percent somewhat oppose it; 3.7 percent somewhat support it; 3.1 percent strongly support it and 2.8 percent did not answer.
Researchers polled 575 people, which is considered to be a respectable sample size for the country's population.
The poll was conducted by the public research firm Public Domain.
Several politicians, including Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner and Democratic National Alliance Leader Branville McCartney have expressed the view that The Bahamas will not follow suit any time soon.
Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell was asked for his opinion on the matter on the Guardian Radio talk show "Q and A" with hosts Quincy Parker and Adrian Francis yesterday, but he declined to comment.
In March 2013, Prime Minister Perry Christie said he does not believe in same-sex marriage and it was not an issue on the government's agenda.
He made the statement weeks after then Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett predicted that the Bahamian courts will soon have to address the question of same-sex marriage.

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Pinder expects promotions for court reporters by July 1

June 29, 2015

Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President John Pinder said yesterday he is confident that promotions for court reporters will be approved for the next fiscal period, which begins July 1.
"I was informed on Thursday that all the funding that was sought has been approved," Pinder told The Nassau Guardian.
"I feel much more confident that we will meet the deadline."
He said he will follow through today to ensure that the required information is submitted on time.
In May, Pinder threatened that the judiciary would suffer the consequences if promotion deadlines for 18 stenographers employed by the government were not met.
Pinder said stenographers have waited more than 10 years for promotions and only recently learned that the judiciary's budget cannot accommodate their promotions.
Their privately contracted counterparts received promotions earlier this year.
"It's unfair to sort out the contracted reporters and leave out the career reporters," Pinder said.
"We condemn that to the fullest."
Pinder did not rule out a complete shutdown of the courts.
In a recent report, British consultant Ben Yallop said that outstanding promotions for court reporters should be awarded as appropriate.
Yallop said the court reporters "presently feel undervalued", and although the unit is performing well, this was likely affecting performance.
Yallop also called for an end to the "divisive system" of contracted and permanent staff "so that all long-term personnel are made permanent and are able to receive the appropriate benefits to which they should be entitled".

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Bar Assoc. president says AG paying lip service

June 29, 2015

Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said Saturday that the Supreme Court Registry is "in dire need of evaluation, repair and process reengineering".
However, Bahamas Bar Association (BBA) President Elsworth Johnson yesterday dismissed her remarks made at the BBA's retreat as "lip service".
According to Maynard-Gibson, a senior lawyer told her, "Quite frankly the present state of the registry leaves much to be desired and is an impediment to the entire legal system."
Johnson noted that the registry has been in a deplorable state for years, despite calls by successive chief justices to improve its condition.
"In 2015, for the AG to talk about the registry without doing anything about it, is just paying lip service," he said.
"This is not something that's new; this is something the courts have been speaking about for years. The fault for this has to be laid squarely at the feet at the executive."
Johnson continued, "To my mind for the AG to now say there is a problem is just lip service. It has not just a national repercussion... but it has international repercussions.
"Nobody wants to know they have a matter in the system and their file can go missing, or that their file is in a building not fit for habitation, rats walking on them, and being wet by the rain and dried by the sun. The time for talk is over."
According to Johnson, Chief Justice Sir Hartman Longley had recently "identified a number of new files, almost 10 years old, that the court has not dealt with as yet because of the breakdown in the registry."
Johnson pointed out that the executive is responsible for making funds available to the judiciary. He noted that the $12 million that was "wasted" on carnival could have been applied to critical areas of the judiciary like the registry.
Johnson said that the problems in the registry should not be new to the AG, or past and present prime ministers, who as lawyers would have had firsthand experience with the state of the registry.

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Bahamas applauded for its hosting of 19th CCEM

June 29, 2015

It was during the historic 1985 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in The Bahamas that the landmark Nassau Accord was established leading the way for the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid leader.
And 30 years later, in the same small state - The Bahamas - the call was made at the conclusion of the 19th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers for establishing education as a core value throughout the 53 member states.
Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald, during the closing ceremony said: "As ministers of education, we are cognizant of the fact that our ministries are the most important within any government.
"We impact finance, national security, health, social services as well as youth and culture. We must therefore remain relentless in advancing the education agenda."
The 19th CCEM was held under the theme: "Quality Education for Equitable Development: Performance, Paths and Productivity."
The conference brought together ministers of education and other delegates from the 53 Commonwealth nations last week at Atlantis, Paradise Island.
"We have reached the end of an outstanding, successful Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers," said Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma.
He said the national motto of The Bahamas, "Forward, Upward, Onward, Together," might be the watchword for the Commonwealth going forward.
"That togetherness and that collective ambition to achieve more is both a great aspiration and a great inspiration," he said.
Fitzgerald said he was humbled to have served as chair of the 19th CCEM - when delegates were immersed in the world of education and examined challenges of policymakers, teachers and students.
"The presentations, discussions, exchange of ideas and collaboration have been an engaging learning experience for us all," he said.
He continued: "I have learned much from my colleagues this week and my life has been deeply enriched by their presentations and the discussions that we have had."
Fitzgerald said, however, there is still much work to be done.
"Because we know the inherent value of education, we must find ways to strategically and creatively communicate and transfer that value and appreciation to our citizens. As Malcolm X said, 'by any means necessary'," he said.
"Let this meeting held in an historic country in the Commonwealth act as a basis for establishing education not only as a priority, but as a core value."
Fitzgerald thanked all those who contributed to the "overwhelming success" of the conference, and the Commonwealth Secretariat for the confidence placed in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Government of The Bahamas in hosting a conference of this caliber.
The closing ceremony ended with a Bahamian Cultural Show featuring rake and scrape performers of the Cat Island Primary School, a dance show by Creative Folklore and a Junkanoo rush-out by Magic Showtime Boys.

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