Nassau Guardian Stories

Atlantic Medical Fun Run/Walk

April 21, 2015

For the 17th consecutive year, Atlantic Medical Insurance Ltd., considered a leader in the insurance industry in The Bahamas, demonstrated its commitment to the health and fitness of Bahamians. The annual Atlantic Medical Fun Run/Walk attracted over 1,800 participants...

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Save a life -- donate blood

April 21, 2015

You don't have to be a healthcare professional to be a part of providing lifesaving care, according to a medical technologist, prior to the start of Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (MPLW). Your part in the process is as simple as donating blood...

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Cancer fundraiser hauls in 100,000 profit

April 21, 2015

A crowd of nearly 200 persons attended a brunch hosted by The Cancer Society of The Bahamas, purchasing donated items and even joined a flash mob to the tune of Pharrell's hit track "Happy" -- all in the name of raising funds for the non-profit organization...

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Lactation counselor Mamma Rosa is passionate about breastfeeding

April 21, 2015

Last week I wrote about why a lactation consultation and breastfeeding class is so important. Mentioned, were some of the most common myths and reasons why electing to take a class or opting for a private consultation are important contributing factors in the most successful breastfeeding outcomes...

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If you have to grin and bear it when wearing your favorite high heels, you may have hammertoes

April 20, 2015

If you are a woman who loves to wear high heels, especially those with pointed toes, then you must read this. Take off your shoes and look at your toes. You may notice your toes bending with corns and calluses or pale or darker spots on the toes. If you have to grin and bear it when wearing your favorite high heels but can't wait to take them off, because your little toe is "killing" you, you may have hammertoes...

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Give with no expectations

April 20, 2015

As all of my regular readers will be fully aware of, my whole philosophy of life is that in the long run, it's all about giving, about serving our brothers and sisters in God's one universal family. Of course, fully understanding the implications of the universal law of cause and effect, we are aware of the truth, that what we put out will inevitably come right back to us for that's the way the law works...

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AG: Too soon to predict govt action on Rubis spill

April 20, 2015

Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson yesterday stated that it is "premature" to discuss the possibility of the government taking legal action against Rubis following a damning report from independent consultants suggesting that Marathon residents living or working near the Rubis gas station on Robinson Road were exposed to potentially harmful chemicals...

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Education minister: Seventeen percent tertiary education rate 'critical'

April 20, 2015

Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald stated yesterday that raising The Bahamas' 17 percent tertiary education rate is "critical", arguing that the Ministry of Education needs to address the remarkably low rate at the source by better identifying students' potential learning challenges at an early age.
Fitzgerald told Guardian Business that the ministry will focus its efforts on improving the country's current 50 percent high school graduation rate over the next decade in order to increase the pool of students eligible for tertiary level programs.
"From an educational standpoint, there's a lot more that needs to be done. I am very concerned that 50 percent of students don't make the academic requirements to graduate from the public school system. That has been like that now for about 15 years and we are doing everything to set up a structure now to address that really for the first time.
"Our focus is going to be to improve that graduation rate over the next 10 to 15 years, which will be expanded upon in the government's Shared Vision for Education 2030, which the government hopes to release soon," he said.
Director of Economic Development and Planning Dr. Nicola Virgil-Rolle - who is piloting that new department in the Office of the Prime Minister - revealed the startling statistic last week as part of the early results from National Development Plan (NDP) studies. While Virgil-Rolle acknowledged that the figure does not
reflect the relative wealth of The Bahamas, she said that she is far more concerned with the process of rectifying the problem than the number itself.
Fitzgerald noted that the NDP research team is still looking at comparisons between the national tertiary education rate and those of similar developing states, but said the current rate indicates the need for greater monitoring and guidance of students in the formative years of their education.
"We are setting up now in the public school system what we consider clusters or career paths, where students will be clearly on a path to graduation in an area of interest to them," he said, noting that the Ministry of Education had conducted an analysis of students entering the first grade to identify learning disabilities or challenges for the first time last year.
In addition to encouraging more students to pursue tertiary education, Fitzgerald said the ministry has grown "more comfortable" with the institution of the National Standardized High School Diploma.
"As soon as we detect that there's something that needs special intervention for our kid, we're going to try to address it early, and we feel that that will help the child through the education process. Anytime along the way where we see that there is a challenge, we're setting up a structure now to intervene, so that at the end of the day we really close the gaps that have continued to be in place where we see 50 percent of our kids not graduating.
"We are very confident that at the end of the day we will see the tertiary percentages increase, but it has to be sustained, it has to be focused. And we have to hold everybody accountable up and down the system in order for us to have the results we are looking for. That is critical for us," Fitzgerald said.

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Thousands of hotel rooms under construction at five hotels

April 20, 2015

A new report from hotel industry analysts STR Global revealed that thousands of hotel rooms with a revenue potential of more than half a million dollars annually were under construction in The Bahamas up to March, even as the number of hotel rooms under construction decreased year over year.
The March 2015 STR Construction Pipeline Report was released yesterday, revealing 165 hotels totaling 29,233 rooms under contract in the Caribbean/Mexico region, meaning they are confirmed in the pipeline and either under construction or in planning stages.
The number of rooms under construction for the month was 10,148 rooms in 53 hotels.
Among the countries in the region, Mexico reported the most rooms under construction with 6,291 rooms in 39 hotels. The Bahamas followed with 2,670 rooms in five hotels.
If each room was valued at the average daily room rate in The Bahamas up to October 2014 ($197.04 per night), those rooms would be worth $526,096.80.
Two of the three largest resorts in the Caribbean construction pipeline are in The Bahamas - the 981-room Baha Mar Resort and Casino, and the 844-room Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar.
Baha Mar is set to open in May, after two delays.
The STR report shows that the number of rooms under contract is up 9.7 percent over March 2014, but the number of rooms under construction is actually down 9 percent.
Meanwhile, Jamaica Tourism Minister Dr. Wykeham McNeill reported 1,600 new hotel rooms set to come on stream in Jamaica over the next 18 months.

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Geotourism should be tool to promote SMEs

April 20, 2015

Family island chambers of commerce must work more closely with a budding geotourism platform to promote local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to a Bahamas Family of Islands Geotourism Program representative.
Speaking at the second annual National Conclave of Chambers of Commerce in The Bahamas last week, Jean Simmons of the Bahamas Geotourism Stewardship Council called on members of various family island chambers of commerce to take a more active role in nominating and promoting attractions, artisans and resorts that reflect the authentic culture of individual islands.
"The goal is to make tourism benefit more people in more places by inspiring people to travel to the Out Islands," she said, stating that the program needs help in shifting the country's tourism market away from the traditional Nassau, Paradise Island and Port Lucaya, Freeport destinations.
The Bahamas Family of Islands Geotourism Program, a program co-branded by National Geographic and the Ministry of Tourism, hopes to provide a model for sustainable tourism in the country
through mapping attractions based on nominations from locals and industry stakeholders.
The program's website states that it seeks to "capture the warm and welcoming persona of the islands through an informative National Geographic Society co-branded online interactive map that will represent the sites and stories of the region to the world in the words of its residents."
While Simmons believed that the country had made significant progress in promoting geotourism in recent years, she said that certain Family Islands had fallen short of the program's goals ahead of its launch. While islands such as Bimini had done well in nominating and mapping its attractions on the site (48 identified, 42 active), others had failed to fully utilize the program, including Eleuthera (104 identified, 11 active).
"We need help from you for those major islands. Optimally, we would like at least 25 items so that when we have the official launch, we'll have a good representation of the Bahamas family of islands," Simmons said.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) jointly funded the program along with Compete Caribbean, a private sector development program that provides technical assistance and grants to regional SME activities.

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Alien insurance

April 20, 2015

"Yes, hello. I would like to buy some alien insurance, please." It turns out that this was not a prank phone call as the caller informed me that alien insurance is quite real, although he was not actually interested in purchasing any at the moment.
Some 30,000 policies have been sold - mostly in the UK and USA - to insure people's lives, health and property against the perils of alien abduction through brokers such as the St. Lawrence Agency in Florida and GRIP in the UK, because for people like Shirley Maclaine, it is a real concern. But what exactly is the risk? The burden of proof rests with the insured to prove that they have been abducted and returned back to earth and some of these cheap benefit policies have actually paid claims.
The brokers who sell the insurance admit that it is more of a publicity stunt and an attempt to inject some humor into the industry, but the $6 million earnings of GRIP Insurance in the UK during the 1990s X-Files obsession is real. Simon Burgess, the founder of the now defunct GRIP donated the premiums for his obscure risks such as millennial virgin births and Loch Ness monster attacks to charity, but there are still many insurance practices where sellers are profiteering from the uninformed user.
For example, a travel policy may be beneficial to someone who has no insurance whatsoever, but for the homeowner who already has contents insurance, life insurance and a medical policy, a travel insurance policy is superfluous. The aforementioned policies will already include some aspects of temporary worldwide cover and if not, most policies can be easily extended to do so for a much smaller premium than a standalone travel policy. Furthermore, many credit card companies also include similar insurance cover at no additional cost.
In the UK, many electronic retailers will try to sell an extended warranty along with the product but if the item is made by a reputable company a malfunction is unlikely and even so, there are consumer protection laws designed to protect purchasers in the event that a product is defective or not fit for its purpose. Likewise, many cell phone service providers may offer insurance on a new cell phone which can increase the contract price up to 50 percent, however, you can just add your new phone to your homeowner's cover for a fraction of the price. Luckily, these predatory practices are all but unheard of in The Bahamas.
Some people also choose to take life insurance out on their children even though they don't have dependents or a mortgage to protect. Children will be better served by a savings fund for their education at best or funeral expenses at worst.
The types of insurance that you should have is to simply protect the things that matter most:
1.) Homeowners insurance not only protects the physical structure of your biggest lifetime purchase, but the policy will also provide a place for you and your family to live temporarily while the home is being repaired should a loss occur. Also included is personal and public liability cover.
2.) Motor Insurance: Not only because it is required by law, but the purchase of a new car is outside of the scope of most people's cash reserves.
3.) Health insurance protects against the soaring cost of medical care although only about 10 percent of the Bahamian population have a private health insurance policy of some sort.
4.) Life insurance protects the interests of the people who depend on you financially. Make sure you read your mortgage contract carefully: although the bank may strongly encourage you to buy life insurance, it may not be a mandatory part of your contract. If you have no dependents, life insurance may not be necessary.
5.) Long term disability insurance protects your greatest asset of all: your ability to earn a living. The thought is so scary that most people don't even want to think about being permanently disabled and unable to provide for themselves. A common misconception is that National Insurance will take care of you, but even if you qualify, the payments are low and take a very long time to materialize.
The key is to read you policies carefully to make sure that your are not duplicating insurance cover or buying unnecessary cover from a third party vendor.

o Stephanie Cleare is a fully licensed and qualified account executive at Tavares & Higgs Insurance with 12 years experience in the Bahamian insurance industry. Email her at scleare@tavareshiggs.com.

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FNM senator: Amendment opens 'Hell's gate' for convenience marriages

April 20, 2015

Free National Movement (FNM) Senator Lanisha Rolle, who is also shadow minister for youth, sports and culture, has raised a number of objections to the Immigration Amendment Act 2014, prominent among them her objection to the proposal to allow non-citizens who are separated whether permanently or temporarily by divorce or separation from a Bahamian citizen to be given the outright privilege to apply for permanent residence.
She told Guardian Business that she had "considerable contention" with the proposed amendment .
"This in my opinion opens Hell's gate to marriages of convenience, which are contrary to our laws under the Matrimonial Cause Act, especially where the non-citizen is the person who applied for the divorce," she said.
"Why would we want to do that to ourselves? I recommend that if this is going to be done, the regulatory framework must provide some requirement that the foreign spouse has been in the marriage for more than a five-year period before becoming eligible to apply for permanent residency unless the separation was by death."
Rolle warned that the legislation as presented has the potential to attract an influx of "marriages of convenience" and then flood the courts with divorce petitions, and as such should be discarded.
"In proposing such legislation, the government has a duty to consider that the welfare of the child is affected by these decisions of adults to marry and divorce willy nilly, and in many instances for purely selfish purposes," she said.
Rolle also warned that the portions of the bill which expand the minister's discretion are in her view problematic, in that the proposed empowerment borders on "a breach of separation of powers where the minister himself, and without consultation of the board I may add, will be empowered to formulate a sector policy for his exercise and then publish it at his own discretion".
"Where are the checks and balances established under our system of democracy? And the government must be more specific and identify which scope of sector policies would be the subject of unchecked decisions by the minister when the prime minister at present, according to section five of the principal act, is the president of the Immigration Board."
Rolle noted that, as established from 1975, the Immigration Board according to section six of the principal act is empowered to exercise general supervision and control over matters in relation to immigration.
"This attempt to take away substantial aspects of its powers is, in my opinion, an affront to our established system of accountability in the immigration sector. I recommend that the board led by the prime minister maintains the power to formulate and implement every policy in relation to immigration matters which affect the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals whether citizens of this country or not," she said.

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New VAT guide for insurance sector published online

April 20, 2015

Time is beginning to wind down on the exemption period for value added tax (VAT) on insurance services, and the Ministry of Finance yesterday released a VAT guidance note for the insurance industry.
The note is a detailed document that states the VAT comptroller's position on the administration and enforcement of the law relating to insurance. It was prepared after intensive consultation and workshops with the insurance sector, the ministry said in a statement announcing the release of the document.
Guardian Business understands that consumers are already starting to call in and ask insurance agents if they can cancel their policies and start a new one before July 1 in the hopes of avoiding paying VAT.
"The guidelines provide for policies in place before July 1st to be grandfathered, but if you cancel or change your policy between now and then (or before your policy's normal expiry date), you will lose the 'grandfather treatment' and will be subject to VAT partially or perhaps completely," one agent said. "If your home policy runs from November 15, 2014 to November 15, 2015, and you decide to cancel it now (April 25, 2015), then your policy contract will be subject to VAT for the portion starting July 1st. If you leave your policy alone, it will be 'grandfathered' and not subject to VAT until November 15, 2015, which is the original expiry period."
The note states that all insurance services supplied in or from The Bahamas from January 1 to June 30, 2015 to a resident are exempt supplies. In this context, the "resident" is always assumed to be receiving coverage for a local risk. Meanwhile, insurance services, other than life insurance, annuities and savings products, supplied in or from The Bahamas from July 1 to a resident are taxable supplies.
The comptroller has confirmed that insurance services comprising life insurance, annuities and savings products will remain exempt supplies after June 30.
Those insurance services supplied to a non-resident from January 1, 2015 are zero-rated supplies, however, unless the insurance is in respect of property located or registered in The Bahamas. Insurance services for such property are exempt supplies from January 1 to June 30, 2015, and taxable supplies from July 1, 2015.
Provided that the benefit accrues outside The Bahamas, professional services comprising insurance services supplied to a non-resident from January 1, 2015 by an insurance adjuster, assessor, agent or other business carrying on the business of insurance other than as a registered company are zero-rated supplies.
The VAT Department notes that the public can view the insurance industry guidance note as well as other sector guides on the government's website at www.bahamas.gov.bs/VAT.

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Phase one of Hilton at Resorts World Bimini opens April 20

April 20, 2015

Resorts World Bimini is pleased to announce the opening of phase one of the new Hilton at Resorts World Bimini. The guest rooms are now complete and are bookable on www.hilton.com with a special introductory rate from $139 per night, which includes a round trip cruise transfer from Port Miami via the resort's dedicated cruise ship, Bimini SuperFast. Kids aged 17 and under sail and stay free. Guests may also begin earning and redeeming Hilton HHonors points.
"We are proudly welcoming guests to the new Hilton at Resorts World Bimini, in advance of our busy summer season," said Ed Farrell, president, Resorts World Bimini. "Bimini is a popular destination for families and individuals alike. The proximity to Miami and convenient travel by Bimini SuperFast makes for a convenient and quick getaway for a weekend or even a longer vacation experience."
Resorts World Bimini is an expansive resort that extends far beyond the walls of Hilton at Resorts World Bimini. Located on Bimini in The Bahamas, it is just 50 miles off of the South Florida coast. The resort's dedicated cruise ship, Bimini SuperFast, offers round-trip cruises from Port Miami three days a week. Passengers have a choice of staying in cabins onboard Bimini SuperFast, in the Hilton at Resorts World Bimini or in one- or two-bedroom condos on the resort property.
Guests at the Hilton at Resorts World Bimini can enjoy multiple restaurants and bars, trendy boutiques, water sports and a world class casino - the first in the world with water and marina views. The 10,000-square-foot casino features live-action table gaming such as roulette, craps, blackjack and baccarat, as well as the latest slots and a full service sports book. The property also boasts the largest marina complex in The Bahamas with two marinas - Fisherman's Village Marina (136 slips) and the Mega Yacht Marina (94 slips) - conveniently located at the center of the resort.
Phase two of Hilton at Resorts World Bimini is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015 and will include an expansive lobby level space with several food and beverage outlets, lounge seating and a piano bar, a rooftop entertainment and amenity area with a stunning pool servicing a private VIP lounge, a state-of-the art spa and fitness center as well as conference and meeting space.
Port fees and taxes are not included. For more information or to book a vacation experience please visit www.resortsworldbimini.hilton.com or call 888-930-8688.

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Minister forecasts revamp of Education Loan Authority

April 20, 2015

Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald yesterday said that the government will revamp the Education Loan Authority Act as part of its plans to recoup some of the over $60 million in outstanding loans under the Education Loan Authority (ELA).
Fitzgerald told Guardian Business that the government hopes to review potential amendments to the act in Parliament as early as this week, arguing that the act's current "all or nothing" payment program is "not fair" for many ELA beneficiaries.
"We're going to be revamping it so that it makes sense to us and gives the minister a little more discretion with regard to monthly payments, because under the act you don't really have discretion now, so if someone can't pay the full amount it's either all or nothing.
"We've made some amendments to the act now that will allow us to work more with the persons who owe money, because there are many of them who want to pay, but under the present system it really is not fair to them. So a number of initiatives will come out of that," he said.
However, Fitzgerald did not reveal hard details about the reforms to the ELA act. Loans in default, where students had been delinquent in their monthly payments for more than three months, totaled $60,134,812 as of June 30, 2014, up from $57,438,902 in 2013. The government will reimburse the ELA.
The ELA was established in 2002 to raise money to fund the Educational Loan Guarantee Scheme, which provided educational loans to Bahamians students seeking to study at approved colleges and universities. The Education Loan Authority Act authorizes the entity to borrow and raise up to a maximum of $100 million in funds for the scheme, of which $33 million was issued by Bank of The Bahamas (BOB).
An audit tabled by the Senate last month revealed that the auditor team at Grant Thornton issued a qualified opinion of the ELA as of June 30, 2014, which questioned the ELA's ability to continue as a going concern, given its loan portfolio, and the ELA's ability to determine whether the government would guarantee the excess amount of the maximum set by the scheme, which amounted to $5,120,656 as of June 30, 2014.
This left the authority with the ability to lend up to $67 million that would be guaranteed by the government. However, the ELA issued guaranteed loans exceeding the $67 million threshold as of June 30, 2014, with roughly $21.75 million already reimbursed by the government.
The government suspended the scheme on August 5, 2009 due to the loans receivable portfolio swelling beyond the amount guaranteed by the government. Loan commitments made to students under the scheme before the suspension will still be honored, but no new students will be accepted into the scheme, nor will any additional loans be granted to existing students in the scheme.

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GBPA customer service training workshop a success

April 20, 2015

The art of administering quality customer service was the topic of focus on April 15 and 16 as the Invest Grand Bahama Small Business Bureau (IGBSBB) of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) hosted a customer service training workshop for its licensees.
The two-day event, facilitated by Public Domain, a market research and strategy company, educated nearly 200 licensees on a number of key principles which prove vital to customer service executed with a spirit of excellence.
GBPA Chief Financial Officer Deann Seymour applauded the involvement of GBPA managers who interacted with the licensees at the customer training workshop, noting that efforts like this can positively contribute to bridging the gap between the company and its customers.
"I think that it's a good thing that GBPA managers interacted with our licensees because it's good for them to see that we're real people. A lot of times, people have this 'pink building' phenomenon about us, which is a belief that we're only about business... But we want them to know that we're people who also have fun while we work," she said.
"I think that we need to continue to interact with our licensees in this way, as well as educate them on important information that affects them, for instance, the Hawksbill Creek Agreement," Seymour added. "I believe that some additional initiatives need to be put in place because it will assist us in bridging this gap with the perception versus the reality that exists with us."
Also weighing in on the effort, Senior Manager of Business Development Derek Newbold noted that the workshop addressed an issue that has been problematic for some time within the nation.
"Unfortunately, customer service in The Bahamas is not where it should be, and Grand Bahama is no exception. This workshop was very timely, as we often underestimate the impact that good customer service can have on a business," he said."We sought to first improve the service in house and then secondly extend the same level of training to our licensees. I thought that this initiative over the past two days was a very worthwhile effort on the part of GBPA, and I believe that it was well received by our licensees," Newbold continued.
Pleased with the initiative's overall turnout, GBPA Business Services Manager for the IGBSBB LaShawn Dames said she believes that not only were licensees able to take something away from the effort, but they are now more inclined to practice what they've attained.
"The two-day customer service training initiative went exceptionally well. We were pleased with the turnout of licensees, as well as their attention to the details presented. They were engaged throughout the day and actively participated in activities and conversations," said Dames.
She added that GBPA was pleased to host this event and was even more excited to see how much the licensees enjoyed it. "This initiative was indeed a 'win, win' for everyone. Further, it demonstrated their commitment to building customer service throughout the business community," she continued.
Revealing the subject that resonated amongst the majority of attendees, Dames said contact, context and content proved most memorable.
"Based on feedback received from licensees, most of them said that they took away the contact, context and content aspect of the workshop. Contact, referring to how we meet and greet a customer; context, referring to how we engage them and assess their needs; and lastly, content, referring to our delivery and servicing of the needs of the customer," she explained. "And, our ability to effectively execute these components essentially determines whether the customer will do business with us then or in the future; or they leave quietly and never return."

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Pintard refuses to back down

April 20, 2015

Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Michael Pintard is refusing to back down in the face of demands from attorneys representing Prime Minister Perry Christie, who alleges that Pintard defamed him in a recent press release relating to the arrest on Bimini and subsequent release of Bahamas Consul General to Atlanta Randy Rolle...

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FNM calls Urban Renewal co-chairs response to report 'despicable'

April 20, 2015

The Free National Movement (FNM) yesterday called on Urban Renewal Commission Co-Chairs Cynthia "Mother" Pratt and Algernon Allen to apologize over their "wicked and unfair personal attack" on the auditor general, adding that their comments were "despicable"...

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