Nassau Guardian Stories
August 20, 2014
"Time is of the essence" when it comes to energy reform, and a government decision that will reduce energy costs must be made "as soon as practically possible" to offset the "long-term negative effects" on disposable income of value-added tax (VAT) and other measures, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) has warned the government.
Writing in a letter sent to Prime Minister Perry Christie, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis and other key officials, the BCCEC, which yesterday released a major report on the potentially massive economic impact of an energy overhaul, spells out the importance of minimizing any further delays in a decision on reform.
"It is critical that decisions that will reduce energy costs are implemented as soon as practically possible in order to lessen the long-term negative effects on disposable income as a result of the introduction of value-added tax (VAT), along with other increased taxes and costs implemented in the past 18 months. While there will be no immediate dramatic decrease in electricity costs, the selection of appropriate sources of energy generation and service providers, along with upgrades in transmission and distribution channels, could provide significant reductions in costs in less than two years," BCCEC Chairman Robert Myers and Vice Chairman Gowon Bowe state in the letter.
The chamber also argued that it is nonetheless "imperative" that the government include all stakeholders, including the BCCEC, in the process, imploring the government to reconsider an offer made by the BCCEC to "collaborate with it in the process of evaluating the appropriate means of power generation, transmission and distribution, and ultimately the selection of suitable service providers".
The chamber suggests that it has specific expectations for any provider selected through the reform process. These expectations arise out of a report produced for the chamber (see page B1 of Guardian Business) by consultants Oxford Economics, on energy generation and its economic impact, which looked at the major cost savings, and spin-off economic benefits, to be derived from incorporating alternate fuel sources Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and pipeline gas into the country's energy generation matrix.
Their expectations include ensuring that any provider selected must "guarantee significantly reduced" energy costs; have ties to "low cost sustainable fuel sources"; a proven track record, "vast experience, and impeccable references" based on provision of services in the Caribbean, Central America and/or North America; and have a solution for the "extinguishment of the existing debt at BEC and related government guarantees".
In addition, the provider should deliver "better quality power, cleaner emissions and less pollutants to the environment," state the two BCCEC executives, with such specifications key to ensuring that any deal signed provides for the opportunity for higher GDP growth and lower unemployment.
The letter was sent out by the BCCEC this week to Christie, Davis, Minister of the Environment Kenred Dorsett and Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle, along with the report by Oxford Economics, a U.K. consultancy, titled "Economic impact of the Bahamas Generation and Utilities Corporation (BGUC) proposed power plant facilities in The Bahamas".
BGUC is one of the bidders in the BEC reform process, and includes U.S.-based Caribbean Power Partners, Fluor Corporation and Pro Energy Services.
The analysis suggests that installing new power production facilities, which BGUC proposes to do at its own cost, along with utilizing natural gas - either shipped or better yet, piped - would generate major power cost reductions in The Bahamas.
In doing so, it should spur significant increases in GDP, employment and investment.
Guardian Business understands that the BCCEC partnered with BGUC and Oxford Economics to produce the report after finding itself locked out of the BEC reform decision by the government, which has been shrouded by the use of a non-disclosure agreement that binds all involved from discussing the process openly.
"People may pick on how we arrived at the end result, but if the government had collaborated we wouldn't be in that position. The only way we could get that information to feed into Oxford Economics was to pick someone who had the information. We picked someone, and the process wasn't perfect, but the focus needs to be on the numbers versus how we got the numbers.
"Rather than this being a recommendation of BGUC specifically, we wanted to use it to show them what savings are possible. We chose a route that would allow us to understand the economic impact and this company helped us get there," said Myers in an interview with Guardian Business yesterday about the decision to go ahead with the report, adding: "They can't dispute the numbers; the energy cost savings".
Myers reiterated that the chamber does not understand why there has been such a significant delay in concluding the BEC reform process which began in August of last year.
By releasing the report, the chamber could essentially be construed as putting further pressure on the government to justify why it is delaying the BEC decision and further energy reforms which could reduce the cost of power to Bahamians, and spur growth in the economy.
Should the government move ahead with a proposal that involves primarily powering the country through natural gas this would mean a major shift from the current status quo, cutting out BEC's current major fuel supplier, BISX-listed FOCOL, from a large chunk of business. However, the report suggests that in doing so, it could generate major economic benefits as a spin-off.
"The numbers with whatever form, diesel, or gas - gas being the preference - the reductions in costs to the consumer, the government and the public are massive. The knock-on implications are even larger; you become more competitive, you've got considerably more disposable income now left at the feet of government and the public, so that will have a positive impact on GDP and it will counter balance to a great degree VAT," said Myers.
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August 20, 2014
Calling the state of the Supreme Court Registry "absolutely unforgivable", a senior lawyer has thrown his support behind the need for a fundamental overhaul of the management of court records and the implementation of a statute of limitations on Supreme Court judgments.
The lawyer, a partner at a major law firm, said the condition of court records at the Supreme Court Registry is "an outrage" that "makes The Bahamas look like a fifth-world country".
"It is in shambles and it's in a deplorable state, and it's absolutely unforgivable that the records at the Supreme Court should be in such a state that they are in. Everyone you talk to should say pretty much the same thing. It's overdue (to be addressed)," the attorney said.
He commented after Guardian Business investigations revealed the deteriorated condition of cause lists at the Supreme Court Registry. The books, strewn within the registry in no particular order, are, in many cases, missing covers, all or portions of their indexes and/or sections of the cause lists themselves.
The cause lists are a critical source of information for attorneys seeking to provide opinions on title in a property transaction, as they outline whether there is a judgment against an individual; this is important because Supreme Court judgments "attach" to property.
On Tuesday, another attorney speaking on condition of anonymity said the condition of the cause lists at the registry means that they are "unreliable" and could bring into disrepute the Bahamas as a jurisdiction in which to invest, in addition to increasing risks to which attorneys and banks are exposed, among other concerns.
The senior lawyer, contacted for comment yesterday, said the "embarrassing" effect of the poor condition of the court records is exacerbated by the fact that there is no statute of limitations indicating a specified period of time in which a Supreme Court judgment is enforceable.
"So now what we do is we do a judgment search against people from the date when, at our best guess, they turned 18, the age of maturity, and you can imagine that if you are 70 years old and you have been active in business you'll come across a whole slew of actions where judgments have been rendered, which create a lien on the property of the judgment debtor.
"If you had a statute of limitations which even applied to judgments for 20 years that would get rid of an awful lot of heavy lifting in going back behind the 20 year period (in the court records)," he said.
The senior attorney said he has long advocated for improvements to the situation but has seen none.
"I mean, really, give us something to work with...We've written to the attorney general, to the chief justice; absolutely nothing has happened. They don't have the will to. No one seems to fully appreciate the plight that property lawyers are in trying to sign off on title," he added, echoing an attorney who spoke with Guardian Business earlier this week who said it is now almost impossible to give an "unqualified" opinion on title.
The senior attorney speaking yesterday called addressing the statute of limitations a "quick fix" solution to at least part of the problem. His position supported that of Andrew O'Brien, former head of the Bar Association's Real Estate Committee, who also spoke with Guardian Business on the issue earlier this week.
"It can be easily done. I offered to draft the legislation; an amendment to state of limitations. It's a two-liner, but nothing's happened. It just goes on and on," added the attorney.
In an interview earlier this week, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damien Gomez said that the government is "working feverishly" to address the problem, but noted that it is "difficult to give a timeline" by which improvements will be completed.
He described addressing the state of the records as among the "whole purpose behind the physical overhaul" of the Ansbacher Building, which will allow the Supreme Court Registry to move into new quarters.
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August 20, 2014
A local beverage company is celebrating becoming the recipient of a $40,000 business grant from the European Union (EU), and has called on the government to help stimulate small business growth.
Switcha President Mervin Sweeting Jr. thanked the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) for approving Switcha's application for grant funding, stating that the money will go toward raw materials and equipment as the business continues to expand.
However, Sweeting felt that The Bahamas needs to do more to encourage local business.
"It's a great opportunity. We're lagging behind in terms of developing our economy, creating an environment conducive for creating start-ups...We cannot continue to rely on foreign banks to build our economy," stated Sweeting, noting that financing remains a major issue for most Bahamian small businesses.
While CEDA selected Switcha for the grant, the funds will come from the European Development Fund, the EU's primary instrument in Caribbean developmental aid. The grant funds will not be directly dispersed, but will be used to reimburse Switcha for its expenses within a six-month period.
Kirk Brown, CEDA senior grant advisor, confirmed that CEDA received only five Bahamian applications for the type of grant Switcha has been awarded and two for a smaller grant that was also available, and suggested that the country had significant room for improvement in future grant processes.
"The truth is, I don't think we've had a quality issue in terms of the content of the proposals from The Bahamas.
"What seemed to happen, and The Bahamas is not alone, but a large number of applicants did not submit the requisite supporting documents with their email submissions...It can be interpreted many ways," said Brown.
"One of the things I've noticed is that the participation from The Bahamas has not been as great, not necessarily because companies are not aware, I think for whatever reason companies might not see it as a lucrative opportunity.
"We've had repeated training sessions there (on applying for grants)...we do that and get a lot of interest, a lot of participants, but when you translate that into applications it's not as great as it should be.
Sweeting also found the number of properly registered Bahamian applicants alarming and hoped that involvement from the Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) and improved workshops would boost future numbers.
"I think the [BDB] should be leading the charge for us. I offered to help them so more people can be afforded the opportunity to get the grant. Filling out an application is not that difficult," stated Sweeting.
Earlier this year, Sweeting announced plans to invest $8 million in acquiring a farm in Andros to produce limes after lime prices surged from $19 a box to roughly $115. Switcha also plans to develop a new 22,000-square-foot facility at the Airport Industrial Park (AIP) in New Providence to accommodate its growing operations.
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August 20, 2014
A Bahamian insurance broker, who recently became the first female Bahamian insurance broker to work at Lloyd's of London, has advised all young Bahamians eyeing careers in financial services to gain work experience abroad, if given the opportunity.
Deandra Major, a broker for Endeavour Insurance Services (EDV) in London, has become arguably the first Bahamian to earn a permanent job with a Lloyd's insurance firm, the world's largest specialty insurance market.
"If you have the opportunity to work abroad, I would definitely go for it because I can't put a value on the experience I've gained," said Major during an interview with Guardian Business.
Major started as a part-time office assistant at Morgan-White Administrators Bahamas (MWAB), which manages a Lloyds medical program, in 2008 while she was still enrolled in a business studies program at The College of The Bahamas.
MWAB Director David Reynolds claimed that Major's accomplishments represented several firsts for the country.
"I believe that this has got to be a first for The Bahamas; the first Bahamian to be given a permanent job with a firm of Lloyd's brokers, the first Bahamian placing broker qualified to go into Lloyd's and definitely the first female Bahamian Lloyd's broker," said Reynolds.
Major's foray into the London insurance market began when, after five years working with MWAB, she was offered an internship with EDV, Morgan-White's corresponding brokers in London.
Major began her internship with EDV in July 2013 and was promoted from her back-office internship position to a position as commercial property broker placing individual risks with underwriters within the Lloyd's building after only a few weeks.
Endeavour offered several extensions before offering
Major a permanent position, which she gladly accepted. Major is currently in The Bahamas spending time with family.
"I'm basically a woman working in a man's world," said Major, noting that she aimed for a senior broker position before returning to The Bahamas in the future.
"Morgan-White was where I decided I wanted to have a career in insurance. Working at Morgan-White, dealing with the policies and people, learning from Mr. Reynolds and his great knowledge of insurance, and going through the examinations, at that point I decided that this was what I wanted to do.
"If you're doing something that you love, it's not really a job. I love my job and wake up every morning ready to go," said Major.
Reynolds argued that The Bahamas needs more people like Major in the international financial services sector and felt that Major's achievements should encourage fellow Bahamians to seek international qualifications and experience, thereby reducing The Bahamas' dependency on foreign financial service experts.
"She obviously has a lot to offer the insurance market. The experience she's gained in the past year has only been brought in by expatriate staff in the past. Yes, you can get somebody from London, but it relates so much better when it's a Bahamian coming home and they've done it, been there, and understand the market.
"We want to be an international insurance center. The Bahamas government has expressed their intent of becoming an international insurance and reinsurance center, as Bermuda and Cayman have done, and you're not going to ever do that unless you have a pool of professionally trained people," stated Reynolds.
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August 20, 2014
Ministry of Tourism officials have revealed more details surrounding the upcoming inaugural Bahamas HBCUX Classic (BHC) college football game, welcoming it as the "Super Bowl of The Bahamas" and the next phase of the ministry's efforts to promote sports tourism in the country.
President and CEO of the Historically Black College and University Experience (HBCUX) Network Curtis Symonds joined Ministry of Tourism officials yesterday to promote the event, which Symonds believes offers a unique sports tourism product for the country.
Symonds hopes the event will help stimulate the local tourism industry during its traditional off-season, stating: "We're trying to drive more people from the U.S. over here during the months of September and October."
Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism Harrison Thompson confirmed that the ministry had invested $500,000 into the project as part of a series of upcoming sports tourism events, including February's LPGA golf tournament and the 2015 IAAF summer relays.
Thompson, along with the ministry's senior marketing manager Jeff Rodgers and Director General Joy Jibrilu, expects a substantial return on the government's investment over the course of the ministry's current three-year deal with HBCUX.
Ohio's Central State University (CSU) will play against Texas Southern University (TSU) in the first BHC, which is scheduled for Saturday, September 13 in the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Several events, including a celebrity golf tournament and educational seminars for local students, are scheduled for September 12.
"We've created tremendous hype over the last two to three months. The buzz in the United States has been growing," said Symonds, confirming that ticket prices would start at $25 for general admission, with $50 and $100 VIP tickets; $15 student tickets are also available.
"Remember, this is the first year of a three-year deal right now, so it's going to take some time for us to build this, but I can tell you right now we are going to do a great job year after year after year."
The arrangement with the HBCUX presents an opportunity for educational networking between The Bahamas and historically black colleges and universities. TSU and CSU have each set aside three full four-year academic scholarships at their respective universities for Bahamian students.
The update comes one week after the government announced a $10 million motorsports complex in New Providence as yet another sports tourism attraction for The Bahamas.
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August 20, 2014
Frontier Airlines has announced that it will be introducing flights to Nassau, Bahamas from Trenton-Mercer starting in November - an initiative that tourism officials are lauding.
Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes announced the move this week in a press statement noting that it is the first time a commercial airline from Trenton-Mercer Airport would be introducing an international flight.
"We're excited that, for the first time in our long history, Trenton-Mercer Airport will host a commercial carrier that offers direct flights to an island resort, and we're optimistic that this is a sign of future growth," Hughes said.
The flights will commence on November 20.
Flights will run twice weekly on Thursday and Sunday on Frontier's 138-seat Airbus 319.
Director of Sports Tourism Development in the Ministry of Tourism Tyrone Sawyer said flights from this area are welcomed.
"We are pleased to see Frontier widen its market to Nassau/Paradise Island, and we see this as a very good addition to our total airlift to Nassau/Paradise Island," he said.
"Frontier, as a low-cost carrier, would give us the opportunity to generate more tourism by virtue of their low fares into the market place. They tend to offer very good rates which would make the destination more attractive to potential visitors."
Nassau joins a list of Frontier's destinations from Trenton-Mercer that includes Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago-Midway; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Detroit; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C. and St. Louis. The airline also offers a host of direct flights to various Florida airports, including Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, St. Augustine, Tampa and West Palm Beach.
Frontier is the only passenger airline flying out of the airport.
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August 20, 2014
The Bahamas Striping Group of Companies (BSGC) is in the embryonic stages of acquiring Crown land in West End, Grand Bahama to build a $750,000 cold mix patch manufacturing facility. The plant, which is scheduled to come on-stream in mid 2015, will produce a value-added product which will be distributed throughout the country and the Caribbean region.
BSGC realized that global trends are shifting away from the traditional industry concept of manufacturing a product from the ground up. The company will import the binder, which is the proprietary product, and will add locally-produced aggregate to produce an environmentally-friendly product for road repavement and pot hole repair.
As there is not a hot asphalt plant readily available, the government spends millions per year to import traditional cold patch to conduct road repairs on trenches and pot holes in the Family Islands, as well as for Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and the Water and Sewerage Corporation. Most Caribbean countries use cement to patch pot holes, which does not bond. Recently, Jamaica has also adopted a similar product to cold patch. Once the product is applied correctly, it can last for three to five years.
Manufacturing in The Bahamas is slowly entering a dynamic new phase as there are now new substantial opportunities that will propel this industry into becoming an important sector in the Bahamian economy.
"This investment reflects our continued commitment to meeting the growing market demand for maintained and safe roads in The Bahamas," said Atario Mitchell, president of BSGC. "Our ability to produce these products will strengthen our will strengthen our supply
reliability as the government, small contractors and distributors will be able to purchase cold patch from a local manufacturer. Cold patch is a mix of black tar like binder and rock aggregate. Both of these products will repair and rejuvenate hot mix asphalt pavements as well as double tar, sand and seal surfaces commonly found in The Bahamas."
He added that the products are guaranteed to provide huge savings in the public and private sectors because it will have a less expensive price point.
BSGC envisages that the recent announcement of duty free concessions for the businesses in East End and West End, Grand Bahama, will provide the needed stimulus and incentives for BSGC to relocate its plant to West End, as well as boost the economy by providing jobs.
"We believe that this plant will provide well beyond the needs for the country, as cold patch will be produced on a daily and monthly basis. This augurs well for the economy in West End, as we are projecting that we will hire fifteen locals and one international trainer who will teach West Enders how to use the plant and create the product," said Dr. Allen Albury, BSGC managing director. "West End has the necessary international trade logistics and shipping infrastructure which will allow us to transport the cold patch not only throughout the country but to other Caribbean Islands."
In the next few years, West Grand Bahama will be recognized as a manufacturing and shipping mecca. BSGC is welcoming and inviting dynamic and mature investor networks, with expendable income and a proven ability to partner and interconnect with them as they are positioning BSGC for regional and global expansion through investment in the plant and equipment.
Member of Parliament for West End and Bimini, and the Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said the duty free concession incentive will serve as a stimulus to turn the economic and social circumstances of West Grand Bahama around.
"You don't want to have growth of the foreign businesses and Bahamians are left behind. We have gone through political and social revolutions and the next revolution will be an economic one. Bahamians are better educated and exposed to the business world and they have access to capital, which allows them to invest," said Minister Wilchcombe.
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August 20, 2014
BTC is making a "concerted effort" to incorporate women into leadership positions, a BTC executive said at a regional telecoms conference.
The Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organizations (CANTO), the Caribbean's information and communication technology (ICT) organization, recently highlighted the advancement of women as a vital factor in the development of the sector at its 30th annual Conference and Trade Exhibition.
At the regional conference, which was co-hosted by BTC, CANTO debuted its Caribbean Women in ICT (CWIC) program with an inaugural breakfast at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island that focused on better engaging women at all levels of ICT in the region.
Spearheading the initiative was Secretary General Regenie Fraser, who stressed the important roles women play in ICT and their under-representation within the industry, which were the motivating factors for Tuesday morning's "Caribbean Women in ICT" breakfast.
"Over the years, CANTO programs for women in ICT have lacked formal structure. Therefore, we wanted to address the issues facing women in the industry in a more structured way. There is significant research indicating that women are underrepresented in the industry, and that those who enter the field do not stay. It was clear to CANTO that an ongoing forum was needed to solidify commitment to implement projects that will attract and encourage young women from the region to pursue careers in the ICT sector."
Mitzi Miller, editor-in-chief of Ebony Magazine, was invited to deliver the opening address. Mitzi shared the journey that led to her current position and left the audience with a very simple message: "No matter how many hours you put into your work day, take time for family and friends and to enjoy your life - finding and maintaining the balance is important; family is most important."
Panel Presentations were given by Patricia Walters, SVP customer operations, BTC; Ingrid Seeratan, permanent secretary of science and technology for Trinidad and Tobago; Jennifer Britton, deputy Program manager, ICT4D CARICOM secretariat; Lisa Lewis, group projects director, Digicel and Rhea Yaw Ching, corporate VP sales/marketing, Columbus Communications.
The panelists emphasized that the time had come for women to play a more important role in the ICT industry and that, as Caribbean women of influence, it was their responsibility to ensure that young women are exposed to the possibilities and opportunities available in the sector.
Patricia Walters, BTC senior vice president of customer operations, said that one need only look at the statistics to see that the forum is much needed.
"Recruiting and retention of women is an issue in the sector worldwide. Only 30 percent of people employed in ICT at the entry level are women. At mid-level this drops to 15 percent, and at the senior strategy and planning levels, this drops again to nine percent. We, as leading women in the industry, have to find ways to keep women in the workforce. Women have lots of knowledge and experience that can be used to better the industry and research shows that companies with gender diverse leadership make better decisions and higher profits."
Walters added that BTC is happy to join with CANTO and has been addressing this issue in its own organization.
"BTC doesn't have a quota system, as we believe in promoting the best person for the job, but there has been a concerted effort to better incorporate women, especially in leadership positions. So what you are seeing evolve is jobs that were once perceived as male-dominated now have many females in them. We are committed to our employee development, offering flexible technical training and e-learning suites to all employees, which women have been making fantastic use of. So we really look forward to partnering with CANTO as CWIC progresses."
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August 20, 2014
The Cabinet of The Bahamas has confirmed Dr. Rodney Smith as the president of The College of The Bahamas (COB), Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald announced this afternoon.
Smith resigned in 2005 as president amid a plagiarism scandal.Fitzgerald said despite some concerns that had been expressed in some circles, Smith had the majority support of stakeholders, including the Public Managers Union, the College of The Bahamas Union of Students and others.
The Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas (UTEB) also welcomed the announcement.
On the weekend, UTEB expressed disappointment that a decision had not yet been announced.
Fitzgerald said officials are going into negotiations on Smith's three-year contract.
When Smith was COB president in 2005, he was embroiled in controversy.
The circumstances surrounding his resignation came back into focus as Smith sought reappointment.
In May 2005, during a speech at the college's Honours Convocation, Smith used a portion of a speech given by New York University President Dr. John Sexton without providing attribution.
At the time, Smith insisted that his use of a portion of the speech without providing attribution did not amount to plagiarism because Sexton later said that his work is the property of the academic community.
However, during the firestorm that erupted after that speech, the COB Council appointed a special panel, which recommended Smith's termination.
Earlier this month, Smith said he made a "serious mistake" in 2005 and added that he will never make such a mistake again.COB Council Chairman Alfred Sears said the council submitted Smith's name to the government as its choice for the next COB president after "a long, transparent, competitive and rigorous search process conducted by a council-appointed Advisory Search Committee (ASC)".
Franklyn Wilson, who served as chairman of the Council at the time of Smith's resignation, told The Nassau Guardian several weeks ago that it would be a "significant error for the country" if he was reappointed.
In 2005, Wilson said Smith had been paid the nearly $300,000 agreed to as a part of his buyout arrangement with the Council.
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August 20, 2014
Despite swimming in the morning session, Joanna Evans turned in the type of performance in the females' 800 meters (m) freestyle timed final yesterday that will forever linger in the minds of Bahamians and which will indeed be etched into the history books as one of the all-time great swims by a Bahamian athlete.
The 17-year-old junior swimmer swam a new lifetime best, by almost two seconds, to finish second in her morning heat and third overall in the event at the second Youth OIympic Games in Nanjing, China. In so doing, she secured the bronze medal, just the third ever global medal for The Bahamas in swimming, and the first ever in any Olympic event. Jeremy Knowles won a bronze medal in the men's 200m fly at the 2003 World University Games, and Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace delivered a bronze in the women's 50m free at the 2010 World Short Course Swimming Championships.
The Youth Olympics, which encompasses athletes from ages 14 to 18, is just two editions old, and already a swimmer has broken through for the country. Tynia Gaither was the country's first medalist at the Youth Olympics with her silver medal in the women's 200m in athletics in 2010; now Evans is the second.
Additionally, her splendid time of 8:39.75 represents two new national records. She reached the half-way mark in 4:17.11 for a new national record in the 400m free, and then finished up in 8:39.75 for a new national record in the 800m free. The old 800m free national record of 8:41.39 was swum at the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, and Evans' old national mark of 4:17.29, in the 400m free, was done at the CARIFTA trials this year.
As for her morning swim at the Nanjing OSC Natatorium, the Bahamian youngster trailed Italian Simona Quadarella to the wall. Quadarella posted a time of 8:35.39, which turned out to be good enough for the gold medal. Both she and Evans had to wait around for the evening heat to see if their times would be good enough to hold up. Jimena Perez, of Spain, came from the evening session and was the eventual silver medalist; she swam a time of 8:36.95.
Evans' time was good enough to hold on for the bronze medal. Vien Nguyen Thi Anh, from Vietnam, who swam in the evening session, finished fourth overall in 8:41.13.
Swim Coach Andy Loveitt said through email that it felt strange having Evans next to his side, along with the other members of the swim team, watching the evening heat of the women's 800m free and nervously going through the splits of the various swimmers to see if Evans' time would hold up. It did!
"All of us [were] getting excited," said Loveitt from Nanjing. "Unbelievable...not sunk in yet."
Locally, Evans is a member of the Swift Swimming Club.
Indeed, her swim yesterday morning is a history-making feat for The Bahamas and a breakthrough for swimming in the country in general.
"We're all very excited and very happy," said Swift Head Coach Andy Knowles yesterday. "With this bronze medal and that time, she'll have a lot of colleges pursuing her now. This has been a great year for Swift Swimming and swimming in The Bahamas. Arianna, Joanna, CARIFTA swimming...we have experienced success all around in swimming in this country. We're very happy for Joanna and all of the swimmers at the Youth Olympics. It's pretty cool that Joanna was able to get a medal. We knew that she was going to go out fast, and she did that. I'm sure it was a little nerve-racking for them, sitting at the pool and studying the splits and wondering if she was going to make it through. We're happy that she did, and we want to congratulate her and all of the swimmers at the Youth Olympics. All of them have done their personal best times, and we are hopeful that there will be more personal best times and national records to come."
At the Commonwealth Games in July, the heats of the women's 800m free were held one day, and the final the next. It's done that way at the Olympics as well.
In Nanjing, the format of a timed final for the event was used, and Evans was placed in one of the slower heats in the morning session. She had to wait around after placing second in her heat, not knowing what her opponents would do in the evening session. As it turned out, both the gold and bronze medalists, Quadarella and Evans, came from the same heat in the morning session.
The Bahamas Swimming Federation (BSF) sent out a congratulatory email to Evans afterwards, on behalf of all of her family members and friends here in The Bahamas.
Also competing for The Bahamas in Nanjing yesterday, were Paul de Souza in sailing and Justin Roberts and Rasheed Carey in tennis.
In sailing, de Souza continued to slide down the ladder, finishing 21st in the third race of the series, and 26th in the fourth, to fall to 25th overall out of 30 competitors, with 82 points, thereby putting the country's sole sailor at the Youth Olympics out of medal contention unless something drastic happens on the waters of the Jinniu Lake sailing venue in the final seven races of the series.
De Souza sails in the Byte CII Class which consists of international youth boats designed for one person each. De Souza is scheduled to sail in three races of the series today.
Pedro Luiz Marcondes Correa, from Brazil, continues to lead the competition, with 10 total points; Pavle Zivanovic, from Croatia, is second with 26 total points. Rodolfo Pires, from Portugal, rounds out the top three, with 30 total points. Cheok Khoon Bernie Chin, from Singapore, won the third race yesterday, in 39 minutes flat; Scott McKenzie, from the U.S. Virgin Islands, won the fourth race, in 45:36.
In tennis yesterday, Rasheed Carey and his mixed doubles partner, Simona Heinova, of the Czech Republic, defeated the Colombian team of Luis Hernan Valero Zamorano and Maria Fernanda Herazo Gonzalez, in straight sets, 6-3 and 6-2. They will play again on Thursday, taking on the South Korean team of Duckhee Lee and Dabin Kim who upset the third seeded team of Petros Chrysochos, from Cyprus, and Iryna Shymanovich, from Belarus, in their opening round match.
Meanwhile, the Youth Olympic Games experience is over for Bahamian Justin Roberts and his mixed doubles partner Renata Zarazua Ruckstuhl, from Mexico. They lost to the second seeded team of Russians Karen Khachanov and Anastasiya Komardina in their opening round match, 6-4 and 6-2.
A total of 37 countries are represented in both genders in the tennis competition which is being played on the hard courts of the Tennis Academy of China.
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August 20, 2014
Some of the country's finest young athletes are set to hit the track at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre today, as the athletics portion of the second Youth Olympic Games gets underway.
One of those athletes in particular was one of the highest individual finishers for The Bahamas at the CARIFTA Games this year, and was also a key member of the national team that traveled to the International Association of
Athletics Federations' (IAAF) World Junior Championships, in Eugene, Oregon, USA, in July. Reference is to none other than Freeport native Henry Delauze who will run out of lane two in heat two of the men's 400 meters (m).
Delauze is one of the favorites to make it to the final, and win a medal for Team Bahamas. He is on the verge of cracking the 47 second barrier in the event, posting a personal best time of 47.07 seconds at the world juniors. He has the fastest qualifying time in his heat, and is expected to make it to Saturday's final at 10:06 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). His heat will be ran at 8:53 a.m. this morning EST.
Also on the track in Nanjing this morning, Shaquania Dorsett will run in the heats of the women's 400m. She will run out of lane five in heat two. Dorsett has the fifth fastest qualifying time in her heat, and will really have to get out and run, as like the men, the event is based solely on time. The top eight times will advance to Saturday's final which will be ran at 8:35 a.m. Dorsett's heat will be ran at 8:22 a.m. today EST.
Also up for The Bahamas today will be Tavonte Mott in the qualifying rounds of the men's 110m hurdles. Mott will run out of lane three in heat three at 7:59 a.m. Mott has the seventh fastest qualifying time in his heat. Once again, the top eight times will advance to the final, set for Saturday at 7:55 a.m. EST.
Field athlete Serena Brown will compete in the qualifying rounds of the women's discus today. That competition is set for 6:30 a.m., and the top eight finishers will advance to the final, set for Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Brown will be the fourth thrower in the qualifying round today, and comes into the event with the 12th best qualifying distance.
On the track tomorrow for The Bahamas will be Jenae Ambrose in the qualifying rounds of the women's 100m, and Tyler Bowe in the qualifying rounds of the men's 100m.
Also, Dustin Tynes will swim out of lane two in heat five of the men's 50m breast, and Paul de Souza will compete in swimming.
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August 20, 2014
In 2007 a group of concerned Harbour Island citizens joined their resources and like minds to give children in their community an exciting summer. The team of novice, but dedicated instructors staged an ambitious showcase of talent in drama, music and dance while paying attention to the academic needs of the students for the upcoming school year.
Space to Create, an organization headed by William Simmons of Harbour Island, is focused on community building, environmental responsibility and social consciousness and justice. The group has grown in size, experience and professional training with teachers, artists and community builders from around The Bahamas and internationally who were invited to be instructors at the eighth version of the camp.
"Starting a project is easy; maintaining and developing it over time is the real challenge. Returning each year to inspire and empower our kids is the true value of Space to Create," said Simmons, the camp's director. "Campers can depend not only on the fact that camp will happen each year, but also that it will be even better than the year before. These diverse and talented [instructors] have brought an outlet that many children can only dream of and the best is yet to come," he said.
The non-profit organization consists of four disciplines -- Space to Create, which focuses on developing and nurturing the artistic abilities and interests of students in music, dance, drama, photography or art; Space to Learn, which centers on academics and prepares students for the upcoming school year in mathematics and English studies, and Space to Taste and Space to Explore which teach students the importance of environmental conservation and protection within the context of the unique marine environment of Harbour Island and expose students interested in the culinary field to a fun and interactive, hands-on experience in the kitchen.
As most of the counsellors are young but have been practicing in their specific fields for a number of years, the Space to Create Summer Program allows counsellors the opportunity to hone their skills and learn new ones over the two weeks.
"Space to Create is more than just a camp. It's a space to dream and a space to defy the limits of your circumstance. Each student comes with their own unique background and I have learned not to paint every student with the same brush and how to be more tolerant of differences," said music instructor Donovan Bowe.
This year, Space to Create focused on illuminating the unique qualities of each child under the theme "Shine Your Light". Whether it involved academics, science, drama or visual arts, students were encouraged to find the light that resides inside of them and given the space to let it shine.
At the end of two weeks, the Space to Create campers staged a variety show shedding light on some of the social issues and problems affecting the world and the Harbour Island community.
In a thought-provoking and engaging display, parents got to see what their children had done at camp; for most parents, the show revealed a different side to their children.
"I enjoyed the variety show from beginning to end. It was so great seeing my son on stage acting and being himself. Space to Create has built his self esteem," said Denise Riley. "On stage, he's not ashamed of being shorter than everyone else. He's just free. This is a wonderful program and there should be a Space to Create for parents so that everyone becomes more involved in our community and the upbringing of our children," she said.
As Space to Create grows, it is hoped that a new generation of critical thinkers and conscious community builders would be reached through the camp's efforts making for a better community in Harbour Island and ultimately The Bahamas.
"The mission of Space to Create is to empower children and communities. Ultimately the whole experience is about hope and optimism. Every person should walk away from our camp feeling inspired and equipped to shine just a little brighter," said Simmons.
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August 20, 2014
Twenty-six Bahamians studying for degrees in healthcare were encouraged to not allow adversity to deter them from achieving their goals by nephrologist Dr. Judson Eneas, chair of the Doctors Hospital Dr. Meyer Rassin Foundation scholarship committee.
"You will encounter moments where you feel like everything is going great -- like you are all that and you're on top of the world, and then you will encounter somebody who will try to convince you the opposite. Just get up, dust yourself off and continue," said Dr. Eneas to the students, who received financial assistance from the foundation toward their studies.
The Dr. Meyer Rassin Foundation aims to finance students' education, not only because of their talents and abilities, but also because their chosen career paths would benefit The Bahamas and therefore help with research, development and improvement on the very necessary disciplines in the Bahamian health care system. Most of this year's scholarship recipients are working toward becoming doctors, however the scholarship board recognized the need for a variety of specializations in The Bahamas. This year's group includes students studying physiotherapy, medical technology, nursing, pharmaceutical studies and medical laboratory studies.
Most scholarship students recipients just like Treasure Kenny will study audiology. Kenny who will pursue studies at the University of Akron in Texas, was excited. After her four years of studies she said she would like to get some training before returning home.
Others are like Atarah Pinder, who is in her third year of studying psychology in Minnesota.
"I'm immensely grateful to Doctors Hospital and the Dr. Meyer Rassin Foundation for awarding me this scholarship and I'm so grateful to God for everything that he has done for me and all the opportunities that I have been able to come across throughout my journey," she said.
Pinder said she is thinking about going into industrial and organizational psychology, but that her ultimate goal is to get a doctorate degree in health administration.
"With my background in psychology, I can use it to help the administration of the hospital, because I think that there is a big stigma against disorders and psychological health in The Bahamas. My goal is to try to implement programs in the hospital that will help educate Bahamians and bring awareness to psychological disorders so it wouldn't be perceived as negatively," she said.
The Doctors Hospital Dr. Meyer Rassin Foundation receives grants from Doctors Hospital as well as other private donors in order to fund the scholarship program. The foundation also holds fundraising events to ensure that each year it is able to assist deserving young Bahamians.
The Doctors Hospital Dr. Meyer Rassin Foundation was created in 1999 in honor of the late Dr. Meyer Rassin. Although the foundation also assists with the purchase of medical equipment and, from time to time, provides financial assistance to Bahamians who are unable to afford necessary medical care, the vast majority of the money raised provides scholarships for Bahamians pursuing higher education in all areas of healthcare. For more information about the foundation, contact Inez Nixon at 302-4770.
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August 20, 2014
As everything begins and ends with education, public school administrators were encouraged to work to reduce the number of children who "continuously fall through the cracks" by Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald during a recently-held public schools administrators' workshop.
Fitzgerald challenged administrators to look within themselves for the passion that drew them to the profession. He asked them to embrace the opportunities that exist to improve academic performance and mold students to become confident contributors to national development. He implored them to work together as an unbreakable and united force to see a change in education.
"Right now that [child who falls through the cracks] represents 50 percent of the student population who do not graduate and leave school after 12 years with an attendance certificate. Quite frankly that is unacceptable," said Fitzgerald.
The education minister said that the country could not afford either socially or financially for half of the public school students to leave from the public schools and centers without a graduation diploma.
He told the administrators that education, not money, is the cure for poverty, and that education, and not prison, is the solution to crime. As such, Fitzgerald said there is a lot of work to be done in education and much room for improvement. This after the national Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Examination (BGCSE) and Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) results improved marginally, and reflected a level of increase not seen in the past five years.
The number of students receiving E through G grades decreased, while the number receiving A through D grades has increased.
Fitzgerald told administrators that he expected even better results for the 2014-2015 school year. And that junior and senior school principals should develop strategies to improve on the 2013-2014 results, and in light of the implementation of the national standardized high school diploma guide principals for incoming 10th grade students so that they could devise intervention strategies to give the students the best opportunity to earn a high school diploma.
The administrators were told that there were many factors outside of their control, but that they could control the quality of leadership for administrators, training for instructors, intervention for students and accountability up and down the system.
"Unlike the independent schools, the public school system does not have the luxury of choosing its students. We must take them as they are -- some socially, mentally and even sexually broken, some hungry and aggressive -- but it is because the greatest challenge is put on the public system that the greatest opportunity also exists. That is the challenge we must embrace," said Fitzgerald.
Administrators were encouraged to embrace the challenge by making the education system more relevant to national needs, and more relevant to students' interests. He told them that the education department would dedicate more resources and time to that 50 percent that traditionally does not graduate.
To do so, the educators were told that four areas needed to be impacted to improve student achievement -- mentorship for those persons aspiring to the role of administration, which would include a period of mentorship; continuous and ongoing teacher training; finding ways to engage and encourage parents to understand the importance of being involved in their children's education; and establishing an achievement unit with responsibility for using data to assist the ministry and administrators with making informed decisions on intervention strategies for students or schools.
Fitzgerald said education is a complex business, and that they have tried as much as possible to simplify the approach and put greater emphasis both with human and financial resources on the students who continually fall through the cracks.
"Education is the great equalizer. We want every child and every parent to realize that education offers hope for them to either change their circumstances, and/or pursue whatever dreams and ambitions they possess," said Fitzgerald.
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August 20, 2014
In the largest scholarship offering since the scholarship program's inception and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in May 1997, 16 Bahamians were awarded scholarships from the Chinese government while another two Bahamians were awarded scholarships from the Confucius Institute at the College of The Bahamas.
The 2014 People's Republic of China Scholarship Ceremony was held at the Melia Cable Beach Hotel on Monday. The recipients will pursue undergraduate and graduate studies in China in a variety of academic disciplines including economics, marine engineering, clinical medicine, genetics, enterprise management, public diplomacy, international communication and public administration.
The 18 scholarship recipients join 58 other Bahamians who have benefited from the program over the last 17 years.
Chinese Ambassador to The Bahamas Yyan Guisen; Zhang Fangfang from the Chinese Embassy; Haldane Chase, director of the Confucius Institute at The College of The Bahamas, and Fred Mitchell, minister of foreign affairs and immigration were present at the ceremony.
Scholarship recipients and their areas of study:
Teshar Johnson, economics;
Duran Ching, marine engineering;
Jonathon Saunders, clinical medicine;
Tyrus Ambrose, clinical medicine;
Asiyiah Robinson, biomedical engineering;
Janeen Braynen (2 years), genetics;
Jamaal Bullard (2 years), enterprise management;
Angelika Hillebrandt (1 year), public diplomacy;
Thelma Rolle (1 year), public diplomacy;
Jaimie Gibson (1 year), international communication;
Eric Rose (1 year), international communication;
Isheika Cleare (1 year), public administration;
Rhonda Smith-Martin (1 year), public administration;
Nekeishna Sutherland (1 year), public administration;
Etosha Rahming (1 year) public administration;
Gia Smith (1 year) international economics of bus administration;
2014-2015 Confucius Institute Scholarship recipients
Tray Rollins (6 months), Mandarin languages;
Gustave Williamson (2 years), environmental science.
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August 20, 2014
While many teachers enjoyed their well-deserved summer vacations, a group of teachers from Lyford Cay International School (LCIS) worked to help improve the literacy and math skills of the students at the Willie Mae Pratt School for Girls and the Simpson Penn School for Boys.
The inaugural program provided support to 32 students over four weeks in July and focused on academics with the boys and personal development with the girls, according to Helene DeJong, co founder of Teachers United for Social Change (TUSC).
TUSC was founded by a group of LCIS educators in February 2014 as a community outreach organization providing targeted educational intervention to underserved populations within The Bahamas. Over the summer, TUSC mobilized its volunteers and teachers to provide academic support, training, and mentorship, at the Penn-Pratt Enrichment Project (PPEP), which targets boys and girls housed at the Simpson Penn School for Boys and the Willie Mae Pratt School for Girls.
Recent data provided by the Simpson Penn and Willie Mae Pratt Schools revealed that more than 50 percent of the students were currently reading significantly below grade level, and two out of the current students were non-readers.
The teachers measured the students' level of achievement before and after the program and said they noticed significant improvement by the students at the end of the four weeks.
The lead teachers for the project were Isadora Blyden, the head of school for elementary and student support at LCIS, an educator for more than 24 years; Daenette Gardiner, the learning enhancement teacher at LCIS, an educator for 18 years; Katina Seymour a fourth grade teacher, an educator for seven years, and Helene DeJong, the librarian and community service coordinator at LCIS, an educator for 17 years.
The initial four founding LCIS teachers were joined by six of their colleagues from LCIS as well as two teachers from other organizations.
"Every responsible person wants to make a positive impact on their community," said Gardiner. "And the great thing about this group of teachers is that we all shared the load. No one felt alone or overtaxed. It made all the difference in the world to work as a team and we still got to enjoy our summer vacation."
According to the founding members, TUSC will need more teacher volunteers next summer as they plan to repeat the PPEP program as well as add others. "For me it was exciting professionally to work with my colleagues in a different context and on a totally different level. It was very rewarding," said DeJong.
"I am hopeful and confident that the time spent with the young ladies at the school will not be soon forgotten. The encouraging, respectful and practical lessons and discussions we had are bound to create a positive change. I am optimistic about their future," said Seymour.
The TUSC also conducted a book drive to establish reading libraries in both schools.
"We found that the children did have access to books but that they were mostly outdated resource materials," said DeJong. "Through our book drive we were able to provide them with more exciting books to read -- books they were interested in reading. It was like giving them gold. They could not get enough."
TUSC has also pledged to provide training for Penn-Pratt teachers at the start of the new school year and giving them practical guidance on how to succeed. Gardner said they would like to make monthly visits and bring in guest speakers to expose students to the different professions that are available. To learn more about TUSC, contact Daenette Gardiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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August 20, 2014
Somebody said to me one evening, boy oh boy today was a terrible day when it appears that just about everything went wrong. Let's face it we all have days like that where nothing seems to go as planned, however, as I said to my friend that evening, tomorrow is a new day. That's right, it doesn't really matter what happened or didn't happen yesterday, for as today's title proclaims loud and clear, today's a new day. Yes indeed it is a brand new day full to the brim with wonderful opportunities for you to succeed and prosper, in all aspects of your overall life and affairs.
The trouble with a whole lot of people is this -- they simply refuse to let go of yesterday. They insist on hanging on to and reminiscing about everything that went wrong yesterday. As an example, on Facebook, just about every day it appears to me, someone puts up a post dealing with the injustices of yesterday, of yesteryear, like for example slavery. These kinds of events are long gone. So, why do people insist on hanging onto them? These kinds of people who are always bringing up the injustices of the past, need to finally let go of the past, and fully concentrate on the now, fully embracing today which is in effect a brand new beginning, which once embraced can indeed lead us to an exciting and very successful future.
Yes my friend, I don't really care what happened in the past, yesterday or yesteryear. I just need to be fully aware each and every morning as I awake, that today's a new day filled to the brim with exciting opportunities to succeed.
Of course, those who insist on living in the past and rehashing again and again the ills, the horrors of the past, are extremely negative people, usually with a great big chip on their shoulder due to low self-esteem, a bad self-image. We all need to do as Bob Marley so wisely advocated, and that is to free ourselves from mental slavery. Yes indeed we most certainly do.
We've all got to learn to leave the past behind once and for all and then start to live and indeed thrive in the now, for today's the only day over which we have complete control. Yes, today's a new day when you can get a brand new start, as you set out very optimistically for success city.
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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August 20, 2014
Attorneys have decried the state of records held at the Supreme Court Registry, citing the impact on the ability of those purchasing land to gain an unqualified opinion on the title of property sought, and on the reputation of The Bahamas as a place to do business.
Investigations by Guardian Business have revealed that critical records have deteriorated severely. This includes books containing Supreme Court "cause lists", which were found in disrepair, with records missing. Bahamian attorneys must search the cause lists in order to see if there are any judgments against property vendors, and therefore if they have clear title.
Legal sources suggest the problem has the potential to impact the property market, investment and the probating of wills, and increases the risks posed to lawyers and the banking sector.
As a result, the issue has led to an increasing number of major firms offering title insurance to protect an owner or lender's financial interest in real property against loss due to title defects, liens or other matters, further adding to the cost of a transaction.
Guardian Business investigations found cause lists, which should contain information on any actions in the Supreme Court involving a particular individual, strewn in cupboards in the Supreme Court Registry in no particular order.
With many of the books missing their covers, locating a particular book may be difficult for attorneys seeking to give opinions on title to their clients. Further, a number of these books were found to be suffering from the whole or partial removal of their index sections.
It is in the index that an attorney must search in order to find the name of a proposed property vendor on behalf of a client who may be wishing to buy property from that individual to see if there are any court actions involving them.
With portions or all of the index missing, attorneys are left to manually scan the entire cause list book in search of an action that may or may not be there. This leaves them with little assurance that they can assert if such an action, or any judgment emanating from it, exists.
Inside several of the books themselves, entire sections containing the details of actions, whether they were resolved and if judgments were issued, are also missing and are believed to have fallen out.
When an attorney is able to locate an action involving a property vendor, he or she will be able to see from the cause list if a judgment was issued, but not whether the judgment was found against the vendor or not.
In this case, the attorney has to follow up by taking the case number and requesting that Supreme Court officials search manually for the file on the case, since there is no computerization of orders and judgments made.
If attorney reaches this stage, delays can result from the availability of staff to search for the files, and at times, their ability to locate particular files once a search is conducted. This week, Guardian Business understands, the staff member primarily responsible for these searches was out of office after suffering an injury in the course of her job.
'Source of frustration'
Contacted for comment, Andrew O'Brien, former chairman of the Real Estate Committee of Bar Association and partner with Glinton Sweeting and O'Brien, called the situation a "constant source of frustration" that jeopardizes an attorney's ability to determine if there is clear title to the property in question.
"Some records go missing. Some indexes go missing, so you don't know if (a judgment) is out there," he said. O'Brien noted that Supreme Court judgments automatically "attach" to property, meaning that someone with a judgment against them cannot be deemed to have clear title to their property such that they could sell it freely.
If it is determined that a judgment has been issued in a matter, O'Brien said that often the file on the matter cannot be located. "And then you are left with a question mark," he said.
"Sometimes we get a report back saying file not available for inspection. Sometimes we have to contact the parties, the lawyers and worst case you have to tell a client to make a business decision on 'Do I accept the property with this uncertainty?'" said O'Brien.
He said the situation only exacerbates already high legal fees.
"When you take a case you don't know what skeletons are in the closet, and sometimes you spend a tremendous amount of time researching it," he said.
Another attorney, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the system, which sees records at times incapable of being located, belittles the "blood and sweat that goes into fighting a case", in addition to disadvantaging the client.
"It's urgently in need of computerization. It's reached a deteriorated state where it's unreliable. This is not good for the legal profession; it makes it extremely difficult to give an unqualified opinion on title and it reflects poorly on our jurisdiction," said the attorney.
Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damien Gomez said that the government is "working feverishly" to address the problem, but noted that it is "difficult to give a time line" by which improvements will be completed.
He described addressing the state of the records as among the "whole purpose behind the physical overhaul" of the Ansbacher Building, which will allow the Supreme Court Registry to move into new quarters.
"That is intended to effect vast improvements to both criminal and civil matters and to provide us with a state-of-the-art registry. The actual physical construction is coming to a close and we would want to be judged as a society after we've moved in as opposed to before."
As to specific efforts to upgrade the registry beyond the physical environs of the department, Gomez said that these will be "intensified" after the move into the new building has occurred. The building is intended to be finished in October of this year.
"This is a wonderful time actually, in the legal system, because so much change is being worked on as we speak. It's a work in progress," he said.
Guardian Business sought to reach Supreme Court Registrar Donna Newton for comment, however she was said to be on leave for two weeks. Acting Supreme Court Registrar Marilyn Meers declined to comment, referring this newspaper to Newton.
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August 20, 2014
A foreign company contracted to manage the New Providence landfill has said it will deny Stellar Waste to Energy Bahamas (SWTEB) access to the site. SWTEB stated yesterday that it intends to move ahead with engineering and design studies that would require it to access the landfill in order to proceed.
Renew Bahamas told Guardian Business that, under the terms of its agreement with the government, it is obligated to deny Stellar Waste to Energy Bahamas (SWTEB) entry onto the landfill.
Gerhard Beukes, president and CEO of Renew Bahamas, said: "We have a contract in place with the government that was duly approved by the appropriate channels in government, including Cabinet. Under the terms of our agreement, we are obliged to secure the Harrold Road landfill site and will not consider allowing any group access to conduct studies at the site at this time."
Beukes commented when contacted by Guardian Business regarding comments made by Chief Operating Officer (COO) of SWTEB J.P. Michelsen.
Michelsen said in an interview that SWTEB fully intends to press ahead with concluding front-end engineering and design studies called for in a controversial letter of intent (LOI) signed by SWTEB and Parliamentary Secretary Renward Wells, despite the prime minister and the deputy prime minister stating that Wells did not have authority to sign the LOI and denying that it would be binding on the government.
Breaking the company's silence since top government officials shot down the LOI's legitimacy, Michelsen said that he does not understand what all the "hoopla" over the LOI is about. He argued that the company only wishes to finance and conduct the studies so that it can put more information before the government, so the government can make an informed decision on whether to move ahead with a waste-to-energy plant at the site, which would be funded by the company.
The LOI does, however, provide for compensation to be paid to the company if the government does not proceed with establishing a power purchase agreement (PPA) with SWTEB under which the Bahamas Electricity Corporation will buy power from the waste-to-energy plant SWTEB wishes to develop. It adds that this compensation is "to be agreed upon".
Michelsen said that no agreement was ever reached in this regard.
Christie initially called for Wells to resign over the signing of the LOI, but has not made good on this call. He then said an investigation would be launched, but no outcome has yet been revealed.
Michelsen claimed on Tuesday that there is "plenty of conversation going on" between SWTEB and the government.
Renew Bahamas is financed by Aubaine Capital, a U.K.- based private equity firm which also has an interest in ITI Energy, a British company which manufactures a gasifier system which produces a synthetic gas from garbage that can be used to generate electricity. Beukes is the managing director of Aubaine Capital and the chairman of the British Colonial Hilton.
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August 20, 2014
In the wake of criticism from the private sector, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis has defended the use of a non-disclosure agreement in the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) reform process, suggesting that without it, the government would be in a weaker negotiating position.
"Each party is attempting to get the best deal they can for their side." said Davis. "It's not good negotiating practice to weaken your hand at the negotiating table. You could weaken your hand by exposing things that the other side could exploit to get a better deal for themselves."
However, Chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) Robert Myers has stated that the chamber is opposed on principle to non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in relation to government contracts and deliberations for anything other than matters related to "national security".
His concerns have arisen in particular with respect to the NDA governing bidders involved in the delayed BEC reform process, which has limited the amount of information that has been made available to the public about who is bidding, what they are offering, where government deliberations stand and other key information. Myers said the level of secrecy that has shrouded the process is not in the public's best interest, particularly when it involves such a critical entity as BEC.
"If we can't talk about things openly then clearly there is something wrong, unless it's an issue of national security, and I can think of very few of those," Myers told Guardian Business in July.
In an interview on Tuesday, Davis first stated that NDAs are intended to protect "intellectual property rights and systems of business" that may be made known by parties involved in a negotiation.
Davis said while a company could come forward and state that it is part of the process, it should not discuss the "inner workings of the process".
Bidders in the BEC reform process contacted by Guardian Business in the past have declined to comment, stating that they are under an NDA. The government has never formally announced which companies are bidding in the request for proposal (RFP) process, which began last year, with this information only forthcoming as a result of investigations by the media.
While some have suggested that the lack of transparency engendered by the establishment of the NDA could encourage the striking of deals that are not in the public's best interest, Davis suggested that this is a perception the government cannot help.
"First of all, I don't like to speak to the vagaries of the human mind. Anything is possible and those who are with you and those who are against you and those who just don't have any interest or are indifferent to you, they all have their opinion as to what is happening, even when you are transparent.
"They read into something. At the end of the day, one of the problems we have is that people judge others as they judge themselves, and if you see a boogie man all the time, maybe you should look in the mirror and see whether you are not seeing yourself," he added.
A source close to the BEC bidders said the NDA required that those involved could not discuss the RFP process or anything arising out of it with anyone other than their own team members, financial advisers and consultants.
"While they may defend it by saying 'we are giving you a lot of confidential corporation information that can't get out there', specific data related to generators, litigation, problems, I think not being able to talk about the process is problematic.
"(The bidders) have seen NDAs which talk about confidentiality with respect to data before, but not a prohibition on talking about the process. That's problematic. The public has got a right to know."
Simon Townend, head of advisory with KPMG (Bahamas), who has been advising the government throughout the RFP process for BEC, said that NDAs are "standard in virtually all transactions".
"The primary purpose is to protect the confidential non-public business information and intellectual property of a company, in this case BEC. It also protects against bidders freely going and talking to company personnel or suppliers, at least until a certain stage in the process when an agreement is reached, as this can be disruptive to operations, business relationships and the process itself.
"In a public competitive bidding process, it is also not appropriate for a bidder to be making public statements or publicly/privately lobbying, and the NDA is intended to protect against this," Townend added.
Meanwhile, Davis rebutted suggestions from the BCCEC that the government should seek to engage the private sector more closely in decisions on major contracts, such as in the BEC overhaul. Myers had charged that the government could improve the public procurement system for the benefit of all by including appropriately qualified private sector individuals on selection committees charged with determining who gets contracts.
He said that the government "has involved the private sector" in the BEC contract process, in the form of KPMG, and does not see the need to involve others.
Myers made his comments in the wake of the release of the U.S. Department of State's Investment Climate report, which criticized the government's public procurement process, alleging that some companies had complained to the U.S. Embassy about "undue government interference" in the process.
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