Nassau Guardian Stories

Chickcharney Challenge set for Clifton Heritage Park in February

January 19, 2015

Followers of extreme sports in the country will now have a chance to experience the sporting world's newest trend first-hand when the inaugural Chickcharney Challenge comes to Clifton Heritage Park next month.
The challenge is set for a 7 a.m. start on Sunday February 8, and is open to all participants 17 years and older. The event will be the first obstacle course challenge of this kind in The Bahamas, and will feature more than 15 obstacles over a three-mile course.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Bahamas National Council for Diabetes. Although obstacle running has been around since 1987, it has never been as popular as it is right now.
Event coordinator Chester Robards said that the idea to host the race came from his past experiences with similar events.
"The idea for the race came from competing in the 'Tough Mudder' competition," he said. "It's a great outdoor activity and people are not spending enough time outdoors doing both fun and challenging activities."
Some of the featured obstacles in this year's race include 'The Ripped Seam Beam', 'Chickcharney Channel', 'Muddersic' and 'Help Me Bey'.
"Clifton Heritage Park was a good spot, and when we first approached them with the idea, their response was overwhelming. The partnership works because it showcases the park and they have a mandate to get people through the gates. The course allows you to experience the beauty the park has to offer, melding their idea with ours," Robards said.
"Natural obstacles that exist in the park, that will be tough. We have water obstacles, walls to go over, mud pits to crawl through... it will definitely test your resilience, strength and mental toughness, but at the same time it's not so difficult that it's impossible to get through."
The top finishers will receive cash and prizes and everyone who finishes the race will receive a signature jersey. Teams of four that cross the finish line are eligible to win cash prizes as well.
All interested persons can sign up at both Jemi Health and Wellness locations, Seagrapes Shopping Centre and Caves Village, also at Pappasurf in the Henrea Carlette Plaza on West Bay Street.
Robards said that the challenge has been well received up to this point, and expects more people to sign up as race day draws near.
"The response has been excellent, people have been nervous about it but they have been interested," Robards said. "We are definitely pushing the team aspect of it because while it is a competition, it's meant to also build bonds with your competitors as you test what limits you can push your body to."
The public is asked to follow Chickcharney Chirren on Facebook and Instagram or send an e-mail to chickcharneychirren@gmail.com for more information.
The Chickcharney Challenge is sponsored by Jemi Wellness Bahamas, Clifton Heritage National Park, Builders Mall, FYP, the Tile King, Rashad Penn Photography and Pup Star Entertainment.

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The Bahamas finished second at IC Tennis Week

January 19, 2015

The Bahamas had four wins going into their final match of the International Club (IC) Tennis Doubles Week at SuperClubs Breezes last week. The team played a strong American team, and lost three matches to one, giving the United States of America (USA) the SG Trophy for the overall championship, for the second consecutive time. The Bahamas has finished second to the USA in the past two championships.
Teams playing in the event included Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Austria, Belgium, USA, Germany, host country The Bahamas and fellow Caribbean country Barbados.
In the opening match against the USA, The Bahamas men's pair of John Antonas and Mas Kimball lost 6-0 and 6-3 to a very strong USA team of Rob Castori and Norm Chryst. The ladies pair of Larikah Russell and Sue Kimball then levelled the match for The Bahamas with a 6-3 and 6-1 win over Mariana Holman and Janet Moseley. The next men's doubles was a comfortable win for the USA team of John Chatlak and Jeff Snow over Neil Mactaggart and Sandy Reid to put the USA up 2-1.
Next up was the older mixed doubles pairs with Mas and Sue Kimball going up against Rob Castori and Sue Sprague. This turned out to be an exciting and close match with The Bahamas eventually going down 7-5 and 7-6(9) to give the USA the SG Trophy again.
In the third place match, Canada had a close 3-2 win over Barbados to finish third. Barbados ended up fourth.
The other match between Great Britain and the International team was close as well. Great Britain won 3-2 to take fifth place.
Over the three times The Bahamas has hosted this event, more than 1,000 overnight stays have been brought to The Bahamas and many tennis friendships were made or renewed in the International Club's spirit of "Hands across the net, friendship across the Ocean".
The 40 IC cubs around the world are made up mainly of older top-class players who have contributed significantly to the development of the sport. Among the players last week were several former Davis Cup and Fed Cup players, a 20-year Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour umpire, an International Tennis Federation (ITF) Badge referee, a main board member of Wimbledon and several past presidents of national associations.
Outside of organizing tennis events and inter-country matches, the IC organization has a philanthropic wing that runs many development projects for less privileged young persons. The IC also stages an international junior team competition for two boys and two girls 16 and under. This is fully subsidized and held on every continent with the winning teams going to the finals the following year. In 2014, the finals were held on the grass courts of Wimbledon and are scheduled for Monte Carlo in 2016. This year's North American IC Junior Challenge will be held in Washington, D.C., and The Bahamas is planning to compete. In these events, the camaraderie and sportsmanship exhibited in the events for the older players is installed in these younger players.
Bahamas IC President and main international council member Kit Spencer said: "It has been a tremendous week of excellent tennis played in the good sporting tradition of IC clubs. It has also been a wonderful social week for our overseas visiting teams. I am sure they now feel that 'It is better in The Bahamas'. In closing, I would like to thank SG Private Banking for their support of this event, to the teams for coming to our event and to those Bahamians here who helped put on a very successful third Bahamas IC Doubles Week."
Team Bahamas is optimistic that they will be able to win the next IC Tennis Doubles Week.

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BPC: Shortsighted not to drill

January 19, 2015

Oil exploration for The Bahamas, according to Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) CEO Simon Potter, is not only about energy, it is about export, diversification and cash generation, since the prospects that exist suggest that successful exploration will yield "significantly more oil than The Bahamas can use."
Potter spoke with Guardian Business about how the sharp fall in oil prices on the open market (now trading at below $50 per barrel) affects the prospects for BPC drilling an exploratory well in The Bahamas. In his view, it is very shortsighted to suggest that The Bahamas should not drill for oil because of the low price of oil on the open market at present, especially given the fact that practically 100 percent of the infrastructure for energy capacity is tied to fossil fuels.
"We've been here before, in 1986, 1999, 2008 and again now in 2014/2015. It is a cyclical pricing business and therefore most oil companies take a much longer-term view about these fluctuations in pricing," Potter said.
BPC holds five licenses for offshore oil exploration in The Bahamas - Bain, Cooper, Donaldson, Eneas and Miami - each covering an area of more than 3,000 square kilometers. The licenses grant BPC the sole right to undertake exploration in licence areas subject to conditions set out in the licences and Bahamian legislation and regulations.
The company has an obligation to commence drilling of a first exploration well by April 2015, with a further requirement to commence a second exploration well by April 2017.
The BPC CEO also discussed what he termed "the declining asset base".
"As soon as you produce oil then you've got a declining asset base and the only way that you can replace that declining asset base is through exploration and indeed successful exploration. So, in order not to perpetually get smaller, oil companies must explore," he said.
Having spent nearly $90 million up to this point, BPC is on the market for a partner to fund the building of the exploratory well, a project Potter said could cost about $50-$60 million. He admitted that the company's search for a partner to fund the drilling project is "subject to sentiment".
"Certainly in the short term, sentiment is difficult. People's view is colored by the current price, notwithstanding the mature view about the longer term oil price," he said.
"...Most people want to be able to demonstrate capital efficiency at a time of low oil price, so the emphasis moves to oil production and cost and of course, failed exploration is a cost. It's only successful exploration that actually pays off," Potter noted.
So, the oil executive said that when it came to BPC's prospects, the sentiment in the immediate short term is focused on capital efficiency offset by a longer term view of what the oil price will be in the five to seven years time when the project matures.
"Obviously, you want to differentiate your project to be a good project and in the context of The Bahamas, certainly we look to differentiate our project as a good project on the basis of scale. The prospects that we have are, comparatively speaking, huge," he said.
"We are a good project on the cost base, how much it would cost you to develop this resource, and of course we're in a beneficial location from that point of view, given that we're close to infrastructure, close to contractors, close to service providers, which looks to mitigate cost.
"And equally, we're in a beneficial location given the fact that we're in a mature democracy with a well-founded judicial and legal system and financial system, so in terms of risk, the risks of operating in this location are relatively low," he added.

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Yuan hub status presents trade, investment opportunities

January 19, 2015

The announcement that The Bahamas will trade in Chinese currency ensures opportunities for trade and trade financing, encourages more trade relationships and exports given the ability to settle in renminbi, and creates the potential for Bahamian institutions to invest directly in yuan-denominated bonds and securities without the downside of conversion, according to Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) CEO Aliya Allen.
The announcement also means the jurisdiction is much closer to being a gateway between South America and Asia, utilizing its depth of expertise in financial services to facilitate trading relationships and trade finance, she said.
Reacting to the news in a piece for the BFSB's newsletter, Allen said, "Chinese investors and institutions are likely to view The Bahamas as a much bigger financial player.
"And the international and global banks that want to access Chinese clients wishing to transact in their own currency will undoubtedly recognize that being 30 minutes from Florida, in a time zone the same as New York with access to both Latin America and Asia facilitated by the renminbi hub, is a very attractive proposition," she added.
On January 7, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced an agreement with the Chinese president that would allow The Bahamas to trade in Chinese-denominated currency, the renminbi (RMB). The yuan is the basic unit of the renminbi. As a result of the internationalization of the renminbi, it is estimated to be the world's 8th most traded currency.
Allen said that for The Bahamas to become only the second recognized hub for renminbi trading and settlement in the Americas is an acknowledgement of the strength of the diplomatic relationship and friendship that exists between The Bahamas and Chinese governments, and also the confidence of the Chinese in The Bahamas' financial infrastructure that has been refined and developed over the course of 80-plus years.
The arrangement serves as "a glowing endorsement of The Bahamas' financial infrastructure for settlement and clearing and supports the jurisdiction's capacity and burnishes our reputation as a major financial center," noted Allen.

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Johnson: IAAF relays 23 million spinoff

January 19, 2015

Minister of Youth, Sports, and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson yesterday said he anticipated a greater economic impact from this year's International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays event, after a recent impact study conducted by a Canadian sports organization revealed that the 2014 relays generated an economic impact of $23 million, just over twice the government's investment in the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Johnson told Guardian Business the results of the impact study had given the government the confidence to negotiate another two-year agreement with the IAAF in Monaco, with the opportunity to bid for an even longer 10-year hosting contract once the current agreement expires.
"Last year we really did very well. Our economic impact from this event was more than twice what we put into it. This year we're expecting to be better than we did last year. We think we're going to fill more seats in the stadium, we think we're going to have more people purchasing tickets earlier and ticket prices are also going to be slightly up this year," said Johnson.
He added that the stadium would require no major renovations ahead of the 2015 relays aside from cosmetic maintenance. Although Johnson is pleased with the relays' financial performance last year, he said there is significant untapped revenue potential in marketing and merchandizing, while noting that this year's relays would incorporate more cultural events.
"We didn't fully capitalize on some marketing and merchandizing that we could've done. We're going to do some work in the next couple of days to improve on our merchandizing," he said.
Although Johnson had previously stated that the event had generated three times the initial investment in total economic spinoff, he said yesterday that an impact study conducted by a sports agency affiliated with the Canadian government revealed a total spinoff of $23 million on top of an $11 million investment in the stadium.
"We want to be very sure that these large scale events that we're doing get the desired result. Part of it is promotion for tourism and bringing Bahamians together, but we also have to be responsible in our spending to make sure that it pays for itself while ensuring that the impact is widespread and significant enough for us to then lock ourselves in to doing this on a long-term basis," he said.
The 2015 IAAF World Relays is part of the ministry's strategy to boost the country's sports tourism profile through partnerships with international sporting organizations. The government last month announced that Albany would host the 2015 Tiger Woods Hero World Challenge golf tournament, while the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium recently hosted the inaugural Bahamas Bowl college football game.

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Okyanos expands beyond cardiac stem cell therapy

January 19, 2015

The Okyanos Heart Institute, the Grand Bahama-based stem cell therapy facility, yesterday announced that it had expanded its treatment options beyond cardiac stem cell therapy as The Bahamas positions itself as a regional leader in stem cell therapy. Speaking with Guardian Business, Okyanos CEO Matt Feshbach revealed that the government had approved Okyanos to perform a wider array of procedures, treating autoimmune, orthopedic and rheumatoid arthritis-related ailments, following inspections.
"We had originally chosen to focus on cardiac cell therapy, but as the regulations were developed and the science and technology that we're working with has progressed it became very clear that these cells that we use from a person's own body fat can treat a number of conditions," said Feshbach.
The $10 million facility currently employs roughly 30 Bahamians and has treated over 40 patients from over half a dozen countries since it began offering cardiac cell therapy in October.
"We've had extremely high patient satisfaction and remarkable outcomes. We're now treating about one patient a day and we expect to increase the numbers
sequentially every month throughout the year. We also expect to hire more staff and further invest in leading edge technology to ensure that we have the highest standard of safety and care for our patients," Feshbach said.
Last year the government passed the regulations for the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Act 2013, which allows for embryonic stem cell therapy only in "exceptional circumstances", stipulating that all embryonic stem cells intended for therapy must be previously derived, and prohibiting the use of new human embryonic cells.
The regulations led to the creation of the National Stem Cell Ethics Committee, the Scientific Committee and the Compliance Committee to oversee the growing industry. Initial application fees for stem cell research stood at $2,500 in the tabled regulations. Approved facilities would be required to pay an annual license fee ranging from $15,000 to $50,000.
Feshbach applauded the government's approach to stem cell therapy, arguing that The Bahamas had an appropriately rigorous regulatory framework that both protected patients and ensured that the country is at the forefront of the stem cell industry. In addition, Feshbach welcomed competition as the fledgling field grows in 2015.
"We feel that The Bahamas is the ideal place for legitimate stem cell research and therapy to take place. We welcome other providers that are compliant because it will lift the whole field," he said.

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Turnquest: Continued challenges in financial services

January 19, 2015

The Bahamas' financial services sector will continue to face significant challenges in 2015 amid tightening international tax regulations and increased competition from other offshore financial centers, according to Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest.
Speaking with NB12, Turnquest said there is reason for the country to remain concerned about the continued threats to its offshore financial services industry, but he expressed optimism in the country's flexibility. He similarly stressed the need for improved human capital moving forward.
"As an industry, there is no doubt that we continue to have challenges. We're going to find more and more threats to the industry. Be that as it may, I believe that we have a wealth of talent in the country, though it does need to be supplemented by experts in niche markets.
"I believe that we have the skills available but we need to supplement and train to ensure that we are always at the cutting edge and able to meet whatever competition is out there," he said.
Turnquest, an accountant by trade and shadow minister for finance, felt that fund management continued to be viable, while suggesting that The Bahamas could expand its offerings though arbitration. Although many have touted arbitration as a key area for growth in the sector, Bahamas Institute of Financial Services President Dorcas Cox recently told Guardian Business that the country needed to keep its expectations in check regarding arbitration.
"Over the last couple of years we've developed a unique set of products and we need to continue to find specialized areas that we can exploit, including arbitration in commercial matters," he said.
Speaking broadly on the direction of the country's financial services industry in 2015, Turnquest touched on the recent appointment of Hope Strachan as the Minister of Financial Services, calling the government's decision "puzzling."
"It is somewhat puzzling why she would have been the one to be advanced given her lack of experience in the area of financial services. It obviously shows the lack of depth in the government when it comes to these matters. I felt it would have been more appropriate to reappoint someone like the current Attorney General, who has held that portfolio before," he said.

Strachan, who replaced Ryan Pinder, has defended the appointment, stating that she was committed to further shaping the country into a financial hub. She previously served as the Minister of State for Transport and Aviation.

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Macau resort to feature Ferris wheel

January 19, 2015

As hospitality professionals await the opening of the $3.5 billion Baha Mar megaresort, those with a penchant for spectacle will find this news from Macau interesting: Developers plan a $2.1 billion casino resort built to mimic Batman's Gotham City, with at least one eye-catching feature.
The property - to be known as Studio City - will feature a Ferris wheel built into the hotel wall, inspired by the idea of "asteroids shooting through a Gotham City building".
According to industry reports, in addition to the "Golden Eye" - as the 130-meter Ferris wheel ride will be called - the resort will feature a multi-purpose entertainment center for live concerts, theatrical and top sporting events, its own TV studio and a 30,000-square-foot mall.
Studio 8, a fully-operational TV broadcast studio, will be a 300-seat live-audience arena for reality and game-show productions for Asia.
Developers behind Studio City plan to include a virtual reality Batman ride and Wonder Woman go-karts.
The $2.1 billion hotel will have 1,600 rooms, each designed in Art Deco style, and a Pacha nightclub will take up residence in Studio City. The Pacha brand already has clubs in Ibiza, New York, Dubai, Buenos Aires and Sydney.
Studio City is set to be built this year.

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FATCA may have unintended consequences

January 19, 2015

The Bahamas has signed a Model 1B intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the U.S. about the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and continues to make itself ready for a new global tax transparency regime, but at least one observer has suggested that the FATCA regime may have what he called "unintended consequences for financial systems."
FATCA was enacted in 2010 to target non-compliance by U.S. taxpayers using foreign accounts.
The law requires banks outside the U.S. to provide information to its Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on any customer deemed a "U.S. person" if they have an account with more than US$50,000. It aims to crack down on tax dodgers who hide hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in offshore accounts annually in an effort to avoid paying Washington its due, and on the penalty side, FATCA requires U.S. financial institutions to withhold 30 percent of certain payments made to foreign financial institutions that do not agree to identify and report information on U.S. account holders.
While The Bahamas and other countries in the region have indeed signed IGAs with the U.S. to "comply" with FATCA, as recently as April 2014 the region - through the forum of the Third Caribbean Conference on the International Financial Services Sector in Nassau - expressed concerns that the U.S. was not playing fair in the FATCA negotiations.
Now that the law has had time to build momentum, a number of observers are identifying unintended consequences.
Peter Guy, a former international banker who writes for the South China Morning Post, wrote recently that many financial institutions are still completely confused and unable to comply with the FATCA regime. Guy wrote that while the law sounds like another innocuous tax regulation, "it represents the most ambitious tax and personal data collection strategy in financial history."
According to him, FATCA will embolden and encourage "global intrusions by US government agencies...More people will be driven underground to seek shadow banking services."
"FATCA is controversial because it dramatically shifts the burden of disclosure from the American person to their banks," Guy pointed out. "Foreign financial institutions are now more than just tax bounty hunters for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but pawns in an historical power play for control over the global financial system."
Guy said the unintended effects of FATCA are already evident, especially in Asia where so-called shadow banking is - in his words - "a growth industry."
For instance, he said an American gambler had described to him how he stashes his poker earnings at a Macau casino to avoid FATCA's reach into banks. And Guy reported on a scheme in which clients deposit their yuan (Chinese currency) in a specific onshore, mainland bank account and, for a 22 percent commission, the service will exchange and deliver the US dollar equivalent of physical cash in a suitcase anywhere in Vancouver or New York.
"American residents in Asia seeking to hide assets only have to find a strictly local Asian bank with no links to the U.S. banking system," Guy said.
Guy argued that FATCA extends U.S. taxing authority far beyond legally requiring expatriate Americans to file accurate tax returns.
He cited Dan Mitchell, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, who said FATCA is expected to yield only US$870 million a year.
"This is a miniscule amount compared to the amounts being spent to implement this law, by the US government and up to 100,000 other institutions who didn't ask to be part of this."
Guy's point here resonates with the findings of a global survey conducted by Democrats Abroad (DA), the overseas arm of the Democratic Party. That study highlighted growing concerns about taxation and financial reporting facing Americans living outside the U.S., and in particular the consequences of FATCA.
The organization confirmed that it had been working to alleviate the "unintended consequences of FATCA." While noting that the Act "was enacted to stop Americans living in the US from hiding money from the taxman in overseas accounts," DA said "it has meant that one in six citizens who responded to the survey have had their financial accounts closed because their foreign FIs did not want to incur the cost of annual reporting on American customers' accounts to the US Internal Revenue Service."
The group argued that its study - the results of which were released in September 2014 - showed the "intense impact FATCA is having on overseas Americans."
"Their financial accounts are being closed, their relationships with their non-American spouses are under strain (21 percent reporting that they either no longer have joint accounts or are thinking of moving to separate accounts), some Americans are being denied promotion or partnership in business because of FATCA reporting requirements, and some are planning or contemplating renouncing their U.S. citizenship," DA said.
The latest survey was carried out in June and July 2014 to examine experiences related to FATCA. There were 6,552 responses from Americans hailing from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, who are now living outside the US in locations across six continents.
Chair of DA's FATCA Task Force, Carmelan Polce (Democrats Abroad in Singapore), said the results of the survey show that Americans, no matter where they live, support policies that fight tax evasion. At its meetings in Washington, DA stressed that it has always insisted that "most Americans living abroad are ordinary citizens living middle class lives after moving abroad for employment, a relationship or retirement, and are not the intended target of the FATCA legislation."
Kathryn Solon (Democrats Abroad in Germany), DA's international chair, said, "We believe that the unintended consequences of FATCA raised by this survey - an unfair burden for Americans abroad - can be relieved without undermining the enforcement power of the law."
And The Economist, a highly respected financial publication, suggested in a recent article on the law that while going after tax dodgers is understandable, FATCA is overkill, "a piece of extraterritoriality stunning even by Washington's standards."
As others have noted, the costs of complying with FATCA are likely to dwarf the extra revenue it raises. In addition, another "unfortunate" unintended consequence cited by Economist is the reaction to Americans living abroad, many of whom have been rejected by foreign providers of banking services, insurance and mortgages because, given the amount of paperwork needed to satisfy "Uncle Sam," American clients are simply too much hassle.
Even more, American citizens are not the only victims, The Economist says. The law's definition of a "U.S. person" includes green-card holders and "anyone with a substantial connection to the country."
"Meanwhile, the drug dealers and sophisticated tax evaders who inspired all this will switch into non-financial assets, such as art and property, or hide behind shell companies and trusts," the magazine posited. "The latter would be easier to penetrate if reliable ownership information were collected, but often it is not - and America is one of the worst laggards (see Delaware, Nevada and all the other money-laundering paradises within its borders)."
And another question raised by the FATCA implementation is the "intrusiveness" of the law, which raises serious privacy issues.

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Cox leads new BIFS executive team

January 19, 2015

At a meeting of the council of the Bahamas Institute of Financial Services (BIFS) held December 17, 2014, Dorcas Cox, training manager of Scotiabank (Bahamas) Ltd., was unanimously ratified by members of council, representing member financial institutions and industry regulators for the position of president of the institute.
Cox's appointment was also fully supported by Sean Albert, managing director of Scotiabank.
Miss Cox's appointment to this position brings to the institute a wealth of expertise with over nineteen years of progressive experience in human resource management, human resources development, organizational development and project management. In addition, she brings to the institute a robust passion for education and training.
Cox is a project management professional; certified instructional designer/developer for technical and non-technical related courses; is trained in measuring the return on investment (ROI) in training, development and performance improvement programs; is a certified training and meeting facilitator and is trained in adult learning principles.
She is also the author of three books: "Project Management Skills for Coursework - A Practical Guide to Completing BGSE Coursework", "Project Management at Work", and "Project Management Skills for Instructional Designers".
In support of this appointment, Kim Bodie, BIFS executive director, informed members that recent amendment to BIFS's articles of association make room for professionals like Cox to be appointed to serve at this level of the organization. She said it also coincides with BIFS recent strategic focus to establish a succession plan for BIFS as it celebrates forty years of providing education and training programs for member employees in the sector, and by extension those persons in the community who desire to pursue financial services as a career choice.
She said BIFS has accomplished forty years of success and through its innovative and creative energy has been successful in training a large number of employees who currently holds management and supervisory positions at all levels of the financial services sector.
Bodie looks forward to working along with Cox to further expand the skills of employees in the workforce.
As president of the institute, Cox chairs the executive team. Her expertise will provide guidance and support to the management team in decisions related to training and education designed for the industry. She will also liaise with industry stakeholders both local and international to advance the mandate of the institute and direct focused industry training initiatives
Other members appointed to serve on the executive team of BIFS for the fiscal period 2015-2016 are:
Hubert Edwards, 1st vice president and deputy managing director, strategic planning, Bank of The Bahamas; 2nd Vice President Robert Pantry, managing director, RBC FINCO; Treasurer Samuel Wilkinson, assistant manager, Votorantim Bank Limited; Assistant Treasurer Philip Ricardo King, managing director, Bahamas Law Enforcement Cooperative Credit Union; Jane Major, Chair of Education Committee, trust officer, Edmond de Rothschild (Bahamas) Ltd. and Deputy Chair of Education Cyprianna Bethel, deputy manager, human resources, The Central Bank of The Bahamas.

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Finlayson: Junkanoo provides Bahamian model for a high-performing organization

January 19, 2015

The Junkanoo parade inspires intense loyalty, avid devotion and fierce pride. It also provides a Bahamian model for a high-performing organization, according to management and human resources consultant Roosevelt Finlayson.
Finlayson is the creator of "Festival In The Workplace", a process that uses Junkanoo and other festivals as models for fostering creative collaboration, harnessing diversity and collaboration for organizational transformation.
Finlayson is the founder of Management Development Resources (MDR), which he established in 1988. He is also a part-time lecturer in the School of Business at The College of The Bahamas and a founding member of the Bahamas Human Resources Association.
He specializes in taking lessons from festivals to facilitate transformation and improve the quality of organizational life and performance. Festival In The Workplace (FITW) was conceptualized in 1997 and was developed using lessons from Junkanoo as well as the carnivals of Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil.
"The basic purpose of the FITW process is to facilitate the transformation to a new organizational culture that is characterized by high levels of collaboration, innovation, productivity, passion, joy, meaning and fulfilment," Finlayson said.
The concept was born after exposing management trainees to high-performing organizations outside the country.
"I kept wondering if it was possible that there is a model of excellence - high performance, high productivity, high quality - right here in The Bahamas...and it hit me, all of the qualities that the high-performing organizations offer, where people are focused on their deadlines, where people are focused on excellence, where people are working together well, where there are clear standards and so on, all of that we have in Junkanoo," he said.
Finlayson then began studying Junkanoo to understand how and why the features he had observed were a part of the Junkanoo process and it was the results of that study that led to the creation of Festival In The Workplace.
As a point of contrast, he looked at how people choose to engage where they are paid to be productive and work together and meet deadlines.
"Most of the time they don't. They give just enough so you can't fire them, particularly in government," he said.
"But those same people choose - when they go into the Junkanoo shack - to offer their best effort. They know they have deadlines to meet. That's one of the key things is that, in most businesses, there is no set deadline that doesn't change, that your whole organization has to be focused on and meeting, but in Junkanoo, there's a deadline," Finlayson pointed out.
"You can't come to Bay Street the day after Boxing Day or the day after New Year's Day...no. You have to be there on time. And to focus a whole group of people on meeting a deadline like that is amazing."
According to Finlayson, equally important is the ability to express personal creativity, which is welcomed in the Junkanoo process far more than in most workplaces, where strictures are placed on people according to job descriptions and expectations.
"So you have a process where people who in the workplace are considered under-performers, in the shack they are into new ideas. In the shack, they are creative. It's a process called 'lateral thinking'.
"That's the idea of innovation that I'm drawing from, this idea of lateral thinking, this idea of how to draw lessons from Junkanoo to help businesses, government agencies, schools to become high-performing organizations," Finlayson said.

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MrShipIt.com partners with small businesses

January 19, 2015

As one of the leading new players in one of The Bahamas' most bustling industries, MrShipIt.com is always looking for better ways to serve its customers and community. One of its goals for 2015 is to support small businesses by offering them a platform to introduce their products and services to their own large fan base.
"We want to build community between entrepreneurs," said MrShipIt.com's Managing Director Jurelle Nairn of the initiative. "We want to succeed together. Building relationships with local businesses helps us and our partners reach new markets."
The first of these partnerships came just in time for the holiday season. The Cookie Caterer contributed 1,000 cookies for MrShipIt.com to give away to customers on delivery days from December through January.
The Cookie Caterer's founder Gregory Collie sees this as great publicity for his business. "We were excited that Mr.ShipIt wanted to join forces," he stated recently. "Getting our cookies in the hands of their customers has garnered even more exposure for us!"
Nairn adds, "We are happy to not only partner with small companies to bring in their raw materials at the lowest rates in the country, but also to support them by promoting their products to our thousands of members! The Cookie Caterer is hopefully the first of many."
Any businesses interested in becoming an exclusive partner is encouraged to email Jurelle Nairn at: smallbiz@mrshipit.com.
MrShipIt.com currently boasts a membership of nearly 3,000 members. The freight forwarder provides customers the ability to shop at any U.S. retailer and have products shipped to them in Nassau or any family island. Free U.S. addresses are available online at www.mrshipit.com or via the phone at 328-SHIP (7447).

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Renew chief: Business as usual after dump arson

January 19, 2015

Renew Bahamas President and CEO Gerhard Beukes said yesterday that the waste management company was proceeding as planned with routine operations at the New Providence landfill and plans for its materials recycling facility following the most recent fire at the site.
Beukes told Guardian Business that the landfill and its recycling facilities were operating following the suspected arson in the northern part of the landfill. He noted that the initial fires appeared to have started in straight lines in various parts of the northern side of the landfill, adding that Renew had found evidence of more attempted fires on the eastern side of the landfill.
"We're open and operating. We sent three more containers of recycling materials to the port [yesterday], so we're certainly not allowing this to slow us down.
"We'll be looking to have [a large materials recycling facility] completed by the end of March and put test loads through in April. That plan remains completely unchanged, so our biggest effort now is to ensure that we smother as much of the smoke as quickly as possible," said Beukes.
While he said that he could not comment on speculation, he added that the firm is looking into potential leads related to the blaze. He also dismissed speculation that the landfill had experienced a slowdown in operations prior to the fire.
"To us it was very clear that there was a concentrated effort to set everything alight yesterday and the night before," he said.
The fire stared on Saturday night and continued Sunday before being contained. However, Beukes urged everyone to manage their expectations regarding the heavy smoke still affecting the area.
"There is still going to be a lot of smoke coming up from [the landfill] over the next several days, maybe for the next seven to ten days unfortunately. We're putting as much water and fill material on it as possible. We've got our plant operators working very aggressively to cover as much of that as possible, but there will still be a lot of smoke," he said.
Renew Bahamas signed a contract with the government to manage the New Providence landfill last June, with responsibility for studying the site's waste inflows and constructing a recycling plant.
Beukes had previously told Guardian Business that the company had sent several waste shipments to China, India, and Taiwan and was positioned to have a profound environmental impact on the country in 2015.

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PM: Minnis not a threat

January 18, 2015

Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis has been touting his party's "victory train" ever since his re-election at the FNM's convention in November, but Prime Minister Perry Christie said Minnis is not a threat to him.
In fact, Christie said many people have been asking him to lead the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) into the next general election, although he stressed he has made no decision on this.
Asked by The Nassau Guardian whether he feels threatened by Minnis, Christie responded: "No. I don't feel threatened by Mr. Minnis. Mr. Minnis has to work at getting his party united.
"He has a lot of work to do in terms of his leadership. It's easy to win a party election if you program winning it.
"It's easy to do that on an innocent and unsuspecting competitor (Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner), who as she sits in here (the House of Assembly) debating, you are out there machinating and putting your things together, so that's not difficult."
Christie added, "The difficult part now is winning [a general election], being able to get people to believe in you and get people to accept you and get people to understand you and get people to believe that you actually have a vision for the country.
"That's a challenge that all leaders have, getting people to follow you because they believe, not just that you can win, but you have a sense of what you want to do for The Bahamas, and if Minnis can stand up in Parliament and convince me of that, by what he says, I would be happy, but he can't do that, or at least he hasn't shown me."
While Christie said he feels no threat from Minnis, he said he is not yet in a position to speak to whether he intends to retire from public life after this term.
"There are lots of people who are asking me to stay and lots of people who may mistakingly have arrived at a conclusion that I have the skill or what not to win an election for them and ultimately their job is to ensure that people win," said Christie, adding that he understands there will always be people critical of his leadership.
"...I think when it comes to me, when it comes to my family and what not, I'm going to make the right decision. I'm going to make it at the right time or announce it at the right time, and I'm not going to allow now any speculation to distract me, any side debate to distract me from what I'm doing.
"I'm working very hard knowing that people are skeptical about even our producing results. I believe we are going to produce magnificent results for this country over the next 18 months.
"I believe it's going to be able to help those who run in the next election to win again. I believe those things and I am therefore going to see to it that it happens."
Many FNMs have been working hard at keeping their party united in the weeks after Minnis trounced Butler-Turner in the party's leadership race.
In his victory speech back in November, Minnis declared, "I'm sure Christie realizes his days are numbered."
Since convention, the FNM has announced a series of meetings in various islands.
On the weekend, the party held a meeting in Central and South Eleuthera, where MP Damian Gomez has said none of the projects he highlighted as priority items in 2012 has yet been realized.
The Nassau Guardian understands that Gomez is considering leaving the Cabinet to return to the private sector.
Despite numerous challenges Christie has had with several first-time MPs on his side, he told The Nassau Guardian he remains confident and focused in fulfilling his party's pledges.

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Police confirm arson at BAMSI

January 18, 2015

A fire that ripped through the male dormitory at the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) in Andros last week was intentionally set, Director of Fire Services Superintendent Walter Evans revealed yesterday.
Evans said firefighters concluded their investigation into the fire yesterday.
He said "several persons are assisting us with information".
Evans would not say what led firefighters to conclude the blaze was the result of arson.
The fire started in the roof before 7 p.m. on Thursday, he said.
Volunteers and officials extinguished the fire around 8:30 p.m., according to Superintendent Bruce Arnett, officer in charge on the island.
The blaze raged for over four hours.
Evans, who visited the island, said his team had to use garden hoses to extinguish the flames due to a lack of resources on the island.
The fire only impacted one of two dorms at the campus.
Agriculture Minister V. Alfred Gray led a small delegation to the island on Friday morning to assess the damage.
The government has spent over $23 million of BAMSI.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said the government was "saddened" by the event but will not be distracted.
He said, "We will rebuild".
North Andros and the Berry Islands MP Dr. Perry Gomez described the ordeal as unfortunate.
Since taking office, the government has touted BAMSI as one of its most important initiatives.
While it faced several delays and a protracted construction period, the first group of students started at the institute last year.
BAMSI also recently signed an agreement on technical and research cooperation with China's Ocean University.

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Miller says he will sue BEC union

January 18, 2015

Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Executive Chairman Leslie Miller said he has instructed his attorney to take "immediate legal action" against the corporation's line staff union and its president over allegations made against him.
In a letter dated January 13 addressed to Labour Minister Shane Gibson, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard accused Miller of signing a contract recently with a foreign company without the board's approval to maintain the engines at BEC's Clifton Pier Power Station.
Key among numerous
allegations made against Miller, Maynard said the union has learned that Miller is also a consultant for the company.
When contacted for comment, Miller said nothing could be further from the truth.
He said he was never a consultant for the company.
Miller said BEC has no contract with BWSC Denmark Power Plant.
He said the corporation has used purchase orders, a commercial document generated to acquire goods or services, since the 1990s for the company to maintain and overhaul the engines at Clifton.
"It's a purchase order, of which the board is fully aware," Miller said.
"In fact, we just approved that a few weeks ago, for BWSC to come in again, as we did summer before last, and last summer.
"They have been here since 1990 doing the work that Bahamians could do at Clifton, but won't do on a regular basis.
"That is why they are here; not because we want them here, but because we do not have a choice."
Maynard charged that while Miller has railed against overtime at the corporation, this is to "smoke screen" the issues concerning the Denmark-based company.
Maynard said BWSC has maintained engines at Clifton for $500,000 per engine.
He claimed the costs, including overtime for employees to maintain those engines, is around $150,000 per engine.
Maynard said the only way to bring down these costs is to change several outdated engines, which he said have continued to break down, to gas turbines.
Miller revealed that BEC pays BWSC $1.5 million to maintain the engines at Clifton, a cost he said is "more than value for money".
Asked how that cost compares to what BEC would have to pay employees in overtime, Miller said, "We tried our [employees] and had them do it last year and you saw the hell that we caught last summer.
"The year before we had BWSC do it. Every day our engines were anywhere from 105 to 110 megawatts. That is what we were putting out.
"Last summer, and a few weeks ago, we got down to 26 megawatts at Clifton.
"Clifton now needs to be totally rearranged and that is why BWSC is here now with a group of men."
While Miller did not provide a cost comparison, when pressed on the matter he said, "When we look at the figures of what we had to pay [employees] last summer it works out almost the same.
"...But with them [BWSC] we have a guarantee with the engines. That is the difference."
But Maynard said the union refuses to sit idly by and watch its members be "victimized by the chairman for his personal gain".
"At this point, we are now forced to do whatever it takes to secure our livelihood and to make sure bread is not taken out of any of our members' mouths," read the letter.

Overtime
Miller said the union's refusal to resolve rostering in its industrial agreement signed in December is further evidence of its "greed".
He did not sign the contract and was not present at the contract signing.
The contract provided the union with 180 days to discuss rostering before the minister will intervene.
Miller repeated that two years ago BEC was spending $12.7 million a year on overtime, where in some cases workers took home $14,000 in overtime in one month.
The repeated release of employees' salaries and personal details was also lamented in Maynard's letter to Gibson.
He claimed that several BEC employees, who have been robbed and harassed, were targeted because of that information.
"The union wishes to put you (Gibson) on notice and inform you that we have had enough of the chairman," Maynard said.
"[He] appears to want a war between himself and the union.
"Therefore, we intend to do whatever is necessary to protect our members and livelihoods."
Maynard said he is disappointed the government has allowed Miller to reveal employees' salaries after it informed the union Miller was asked to discontinue doing so.
He said it has become evident that the government has no control over Miller.

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Man, 21, killed in road accident

January 18, 2015

A motorcyclist was killed yesterday afternoon after he lost control of his trail bike and hit a lamp pole, police said.
The victim, who was identified by his parents as Ometri Ferguson, 21, was riding along Baha Mar Boulevard, toward Gladstone Road.
Head of the Traffic Division Superintendent Craig Stubbs said no other vehicle was involved in the crash.
"From our understanding, he is an employee of Sandals Resort," Stubbs said.
"He just left [and] was headed home when he lost control of his cycle and collided with the utility pole."
Ferguson's relatives and friends gathered on the scene and consoled one another.
His mother, Kayla Ferguson, said she received a call shortly after the accident happened.
She was also upset because officers refused to allow her to see her son's body.
Ferguson said she waited on the outside of the police tape for more than an hour and a half hoping to see him.
"The officer just ran us back like we are dogs," she said.
Several of Ferguson's other relatives were also angry because they were unable to view his body.
His co-workers said he just got the bike yesterday and was excited to ride it home.
The traffic fatality is the second for the year and came nearly a week after a man in his late 50s was killed in a hit and run accident on Carmichael Road.
The victim, a resident of Rocky Pines subdivision, was struck at the intersection of Golden Isles Road and Carmichael Road by a dark colored vehicle traveling east, police said.
Stubbs said the man was dragged well over 1,000 feet.
His body was found in the road near a Scotiabank branch, Stubbs said.

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Chipman insists PAC hard at work

January 18, 2015

Despite public criticism that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is ineffective, PAC Chairman Hubert Chipman said yesterday the committee is hard at work and met regularly over the last three months.
He said the committee is looking at matters raised in the 2012 Report of the Auditor General, which was tabled in the House last October.
"I know there is much concern in the public about whether in fact the Public Accounts Committee has been meeting," Chipman said.
"I have said that we have had problems conducting meetings. But we have been meeting over the last month.
"Prior to our last set of meetings, we have had problems meeting because of problems with getting a quorum."
At least three members of the PAC have to be present for a meeting to commence.
Other members of the PAC are East Grand Bahama MP Peter Turnquest, Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn, Elizabeth MP Ryan Pinder and Golden Gates MP Shane Gibson.
The 2012 Report of the Auditor General raised several issues worth investigating, Chipman said, including outstanding debt from closed casino properties, which totaled $51 million.
Among that debt is $5.1 million owed by Phil Ruffin, former owner of the Crystal Palace Casino, according to the report.
However, according to Prime Minister Perry Christie, Ruffin's debt was paid.
Either way, Chipman said the outstanding debt is a major concern for the PAC.
The PAC is also looking into several other matters, including Urban Renewal.
Last February, Chipman requested that the auditor general audit the program.
"We've been promised on numerous occasions to receive that audit," he said.
"We were promised that prior to our last meeting on December 12, that we would have it and I am now told by the auditor general that we will have it sometime next week."
Chipman said the committee has also started looking into BAMSI.
"I think the Bahamian people are very concerned about the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) and the contracts that have been issued to date, whether in fact there was competitive bidding, whether thus far the government has gotten value for money to date," he said.
During his new year's address, Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis promised to expose wasteful spending in the government through a "revitalized" PAC.

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BAMSI contract concerns lingered before fire

January 18, 2015

Prior to a fire at the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) in Andros, the project was already behind schedule, according to Minister of Agriculture V. Alfred Gray.
Gray had suggested that the government revisit contracts or cancel them altogether if progress is not made in the coming weeks.
"I'm not sure what the government is going to do with those contractors who are lagging behind," Gray told The Guardian two days before the fire.
"My reaction to that would be that the government may have to revisit those contacts and if they [have] been breaching them we would have to determine whether we give them deadlines again or we bring their contractual obligations to an end.
"But I don't think the government is going to continue to say okay, we'll give you another chance. I think the government is very serious that those buildings, as they promised us, must be ready for opening... at the Easter break.
"[If] we see that, that is not going to happen I think the government is ready and willing to make whatever decision is required of us."
The government hired 14 contractors.
Fire severely damaged the male dormitory, which was 80 percent completed. Officials said it was intentionally set, but no motive has yet been revealed.
Yesterday, Gray said it is even more critical for all of the other buildings to be completed on time.
He said the government will rebuild the dorm, adding that the setback would not hamper the government's plan to attain food security.
"I'm saddened by the setback, but we are soldiers," Gray said.
In the meantime, he said the government would have to continue to house the students elsewhere.
The students are being housed in Westside Fishing Resort and CJ's Resort.
Gray previously revealed the cost of the temporary accommodations for students and staff will total $120,000.
Classes started in September.
Fewer than 50 students are enrolled. Asked about their progress, Gray said many of their grades are not up to standard.
"I'm told that there are some students whose grades are not what we would like them to be over the last term and they have been advised on that," he said.
"They have to keep their grades up if they want to be in BAMSI because BAMSI is not a place for rejects. It's a place where students want to learn. And it's a place where we only accept the best."
Gray noted that the students still have a chance to get their grades up.
"But I would encourage them to keep their standards high and work hard," he said.

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Arson suspected in dump fire

January 18, 2015

A fire that raged at the city dump over the weekend is believed to be the work of an arsonist, Renew Bahamas said last night.
The fire, which started shortly before 11 p.m. on Saturday, continued yesterday.
Director of Fire Services Superintendent Walter Evans said officials used heavy duty machinery to fight the fire.
In a statement, Renew Bahamas said the blaze started on the northern side of the landfill and spread rapidly.
Shortly after, a second blaze started on a separate part of the site, but did not spread.
"We believe this latest incident indicates a concentrated arson attack on the site and facilities, as our sources and surveillance indicate individuals entered the landfill after sunset and deliberately started the fire," the statement read. Renew warned residents that they can "expect some discomfort over the next several days from the smoke" as wind will continue to pose a challenge.
The smoke from the fire blanketed the Cable Beach area yesterday during Marathon Bahamas.
Evans said residents of Victoria Gardens and the Gladstone Road community must be vigilant because of the smoke.
"We have advised the public at large, for those who have any respiratory challenges, because of the smoke to seek medical help," he said.
"We are going to do all we can to ensure that, that fire is extinguished in the shortest possible time."
Renew Bahamas signed a contract with the government last June to manage the landfill.

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