Nassau Guardian Stories

Some Urban Renewal contractors have 'tarnished criminal records', says DPM

July 23, 2015

Many of the contractors engaged in the Urban Renewal Small Homes Repair (SHR) Programme have "tarnished criminal records" and a few are on bail, Deputy Prime Minster Philip Brave Davis revealed yesterday.
Davis, who was speaking in the House of Assembly, explained that the government deliberately hired those individuals to give them a second chance and as an incentive to keep them from committing crimes.
"We still believe in giving a second chance to individuals who have run afoul of the law," he said.
"Yes, we all deserve a second chance. Even the Apostle Peter was given a second chance. Many of the Small Home Repairs Programme contractors have tarnished criminal records; in fact, a few are out on bail.
"This government deliberately retained those who had the requisite construction skills and gave them contracts to repair houses and they embraced the opportunities and executed repair works that have withstood keen scrutiny."
Davis added: "Mr. Speaker, this government realizes that engaging these individuals to assist with small home repairs will cause them to refrain from stealing and other criminal activity and continue to seek gainful employment."
Davis did not indicate what kinds of crimes the contractors were convicted of or accused of committing.
He said it is the government's policy to engage contractors and tradesmen, as far as practicable, from the respective urban communities in which houses are to be repaired.
The Small Home Repairs Programme came under fire earlier this year after an auditor general's report, leaked to The Nassau Guardian in April, revealed that there was a lack of accountability, transparency and due diligence in the management of the program, its execution and the quality of work done.
Auditor General Terrance Bastian found that 11 contractors were paid $171,000 for work that was either incomplete or never done.
The revelation set off a firestorm around the program.
Davis said yesterday that he commissioned independent construction experts to carry out a separate inquiry into the program.
Davis said the team surveyed 80 homes, including the ones highlighted by the auditor, and determined from the evaluation that 94.2 percent of all repair works were completed when set against the intended scopes of work.
Additionally, Davis said the construction experts found that several aspects of the auditor general's report are "erroneous".
"Nothing on Earth is perfect. When you consider the impact of Urban Renewal and its Small Home Repairs Programme, with this government as the investor, we have seen nothing in the auditor general's report that will change our decisions of investment in people," Davis said.

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Recognizing and celebrating Bahamian talent

July 23, 2015

Last week in this journal fellow columnist Philip Galanis reflected on the "miasma of mediocrity" that is a stranglehold on The Bahamas: "At almost every turn in our daily lives, we are deluged by a miasma of mediocrity. Our society, on so many fronts, appears to be intractably inundated by an attitude that reflects that there is really no need to excel in our undertakings and that, if we just perform satisfactorily, everyone should be happy."
This brings to mind a parable of the conch salad stands. There were two conch salad stands in close proximity. The owner of the first stand had been in business for years with no competition in the neighborhood.
One day another stand moved in across the street, upping the ante, marketing itself as a hip and happening spot, a place for locals and visitors to chill for fun and fellowship and flirting.
The new stand offered a nicer setting, with soft drinks and spirits as well as a variety of conch salads including with tropical fruits. Some days the proprietor of the old stand had no conch and watched forlornly as the competition attracted his business.
The new stand swelled with business while the old stand failed to up its game, watching the new business grow oh so much that it outgrew its premises and had so much business that the waiting time for orders grew quite long, frustrating customers and making the new stand vulnerable to competition.
We are often content with just getting by, with the least effort possible, with slackness, with believing that poor or mediocre are acceptable. The old conch salad stand will languish and the new one will stagnate in the face of newer competition unless there is consistently good service and innovation.
The older business is representative of the miasma of mediocrity engulfing and suffocating our progress as a people and our national development. The parable of the conch salad stands offers a lesson on two ingredients necessary for success and excellence: consistency and innovation.

Abundance
Given our size as a country The Bahamas has produced an abundance of extraordinary talent. But how much of our world-class talent is wasted or never fully realized because of a lack of recognition or encouragement or opportunity?
And why have we not more fully utilized the rich and diverse talent pool of a Bahamian Diaspora that has achieved success in areas ranging from the sciences to commerce and the arts?
How often do our mediocre expectations hamper the flowering of extraordinary talent? Why have we often failed to celebrate the native genius within as represented by brilliant and beautiful minds such as the late Tony McKay?
Bert Williams was born in The Bahamas in 1874. He left his homeland for the United States at around the age of 10. By the time of his death in 1922, he was considered "one of the greatest comedians of the world" and "by far the best-selling black recording artist before 1920".
Comedian W.C. Fields considered Williams a comic genius. Williams was not one of the most notable black entertainers of his generation. He was simply one of the best entertainers of his generation.
Though Sidney Poitier is more well-known today, Williams broke more ground than the former, achieving phenomenal success as a recording artist, becoming one of the highest paid artists in the world at the time.
He was a film actor who also produced, directed and starred in a silent film of his own. He performed on Broadway with the Ziegfeld Follies and did a command performance at Buckingham Palace. Though stymied by the vicious racism of his time, Williams broke many barriers.
Many commented on the remarkable degree to which Williams kept innovating, honing his excellence through not only dogged practice but also by trying new things, by improvising, by expanding his repertoire.
Consistency and innovation by Bahamian talent in pursuit of excellence can be found today in the person of Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, who can now claim to be the fastest female swimmer in the Western Hemisphere having set the Pan American Games record on the way to winning a gold medal in the 50 meter freestyle in what is currently the fourth-fastest time in the world.
She also won a bronze medal in the 100 meter freestyle at the same games in Canada. Besides the record book in The Bahamas, her fastest times in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle events would be national records in most countries including Canada.

Fastest
Vanderpool-Wallace is also the former United States and NCAA record holder in the 100 yard freestyle and still holds the second-fastest time in history in the 50 yard freestyle in the United States. She was the first swimmer in NCAA history to swim the 100 yard freestyle in under 47 seconds.
She still has the fastest relay split ever for a woman while becoming the first woman in United States history to swim a 50 yard relay leg in a time under 21 seconds (20.80). In 2011, she was one of three finalists for the Honda award for National Swimmer of the Year in the United States.
This 25-year-old, who started her swimming career as a nine year old in The Bahamas, never dreamt that she would one day be on top in any event among the most competitive swimming nations on Earth.
Vanderpool-Wallace has already qualified for and participated in two summer Olympic Games for The Bahamas, becoming the first woman from The Bahamas ever to make a semi-final and final in a swimming event and being ranked as high as third in the world in one of her events.
Besides becoming the youngest person from The Bahamas to ever qualify for an Olympic event, she has also become the first Bahamian ever to win a medal at a World Swimming Championship, a feat that she accomplished with a bronze medal in December 2010.
In 2014 Vanderpool-Wallace had the distinction of serving as the flag bearer for the Commonwealth Games for The Bahamas and also winning the Bahamas' first ever medal in swimming at those games.
She eagerly thanks "those successful swimmers from The Bahamas, Jeremy Knowles and Alana Dillette, in particular, whose success ahead of me at Auburn was the motivation for me to attend Auburn University in the first place and who were also such an inspiration during my formative years in swimming.
"I was also fortunate to have the best coaching anywhere at every stage of my swimming career including my mother during my early years."
She recognizes the debt that she owes to her grandparents who introduced her mother to the sport of swimming. Were it not for that introduction so long ago, it is highly unlikely that she would have discovered her talent as a swimmer.
Many of Vanderpool-Wallace's early years were spent as a competitor for The Bahamas in the CARIFTA swimming championships for which she still holds individual and relay records.

Distinction
She holds the distinction at CARIFTA of winning every freestyle swimming event in her age group (50, 100, 200, 400 and 800 meters) two years in a row. At the recent Central American and Caribbean Games in November 2014, she returned with four gold medals for her four individual events.
The sport of competitive swimming is arguably one of the most disciplined of sports because of the daily routines required.
Vanderpool-Wallace not only showed the capacity to endure those training rigors from an early age, she also displayed a competitive streak that has been identified and lauded by her coaches since her beginning: She hates to lose more than she loves to win.
That trait propelled her to work incessantly on elements of her routine that could result in consistently removing a few hundredths of a second, with such minor improvements making a significant difference in her final results.
For someone who hates to lose, it did not take long for coaches in her latter years to come to the clever conclusion to have her train as often as possible with male swimmers. For her, there was nothing more motivating than figuring out ways to stop losing every day.
Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace has never settled for mediocre. She understood early the lessons of the two conch salad stands. Competition helps us to be our very best and the pursuit of excellence requires consistency, persistence and resilience as well as constant innovation.
There is a line from a Hollywood actress from years ago that went something like this: I tried my hardest and achieved my best. But that was not good enough so I'll have to try harder.
We are a country blessed with talent in fields ranging from athletics to academia to the arts. But to turn this talent into achievement, to break out of our miasma of mediocrity we may draw inspiration from the example of Bahamian achievers like Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and others like her who make us proud to be Bahamian.

o frontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

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The amateur

July 23, 2015

Dear Editor,

The seeming implosion of Baha Mar and the legal wrangling between the relevant parties, inclusive of the government of our wonderful nation, do not bode well for our economic and political viability. The moment that the prime minister announced a week or so ago that he'd have dead good news for Bahamians, I realized that the Baha Mar situation had evolved beyond the scope of his capacity and was doomed to failure.
The prime minister dispatched the learned attorney general, an unelected parliamentarian, along with a crew of technocrats and assistants, to the People's Republic of China. Ostensibly she was spearheading vital discussions with the Chinese partners and bankers of Sarkis Izmirlian, et al. This was amateurish and designed for media distractions and consumption by the expectant public.
It is now clear with the filing of pleadings in our Supreme Court by the government to move for the involuntary liquidation of Baha Mar, thus eclipsing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed by that entity in the USA, that talks have completely failed to resolve the seeming impasse between the stakeholders. I suspect that they have all now gone beyond the pale.
The antics and utterances by the prime minister in recent times, especially when he addressed journalism students at COB a few weeks ago, show clearly that either he is in another dimension or that he is delusional, at best. His behavior has been suspect for some time now and the hands of an amateur are all over the place.
Having spent more than 40 years on frontline politics, it is time that Christie and his colleagues in the PLP bite the proverbial bullet and grapple with those economic and societal issues which are plaguing this wonderful nation and frustrating our people, big time. Only a pure unadulterated amateur could do a worse job at governance than Christie. As a prime minister he has proven to be an unmitigated disaster. I could care less about his orations, gyrations and bogus salutations.
An American author, Edward Klein, wrote a political masterpiece titled 'The Amateur' last year. The book is about the meteoric rise of the then largely unknown Barack Obama from Chicago, Illinois. It traces his origins, politically, from being a community organizer to the state senate and then into the United States Senate. He was backed and embraced by many of the business and professional elites of Chicago, especially the Jewish components.
In that book, Klein quotes someone who knew Obama way back then: 'Ever since I have known him, Obama has had delusions of grandeur and a preoccupation with his place in history. He is inflicted with megalomania. You can explain it with any number of words: arrogance; conceit; egotism; vanity; hubris but whatever word you choose, it spells the same thing-disaster for the country'.
Klein, of course, was referring to the now president of the USA. I contend that the description offered by Klein perfectly fits our erstwhile prime minister.
Christie is a rank amateur and it is showing big time. The proverbial emperor is as naked, politically, as a natural jay bird. Most sensible Bahamians are aware of this but there are a handful of political and economic vultures who are surrounding Christie and protecting him from reality. He has long forgotten the frustration, pain and suffering of the unwashed masses. He has, alas, evolved into an amateur.
Only an amateur could have crowed that he'd have some "dead good" news for Bahamians when, had he been a professional, he would have simply shut his mouth and sat small while sensitive negotiations were being conducted. Each time he made a public utterance he ran right out while throwing gratuitous insults at assorted stakeholders. He went so far as to question the mental status of Izmirlian. He condemned media personnel, across the board, straight to hell.
The other day he was, by his own admission, walking on egg shells in his relationship with the commissioner of police and his high command. He was in the chair for CARICOM when the Dominican Republic started the grossly inhumane exercise of rounding up and expelling individuals suspected of being Haitian - even if they had been born in that country - to Haiti.
Under an amateur of the highest order, BAMSI lost a dormitory; Alfred Gray flaunted his 'connections'; Rollins and Moss 'cussed' Christie right out to his face and he could do and in fact did nothing. He used to be a minister of tourism and has now presided over the full bloom of the disintegration of the integrity of our tourism product.
Again, clearly demonstrating that he's been an amateur for decades, he was minister of agriculture when BATARD in Andros, ironically, went belly up. Scores of innocent and benign horses, cows, chicken and pigs died horrible deaths from starvation and malnutrition. I am persuaded that if animals have ghosts that some, if not all, of those same ghosts are haunting Christie.
I really do not mind if an individual acts and behaves as an amateur in his/her personal or private life. When an amateur, however, is ostensibly in charge of a country, that is when the rubber meets the road. My main objections to the continuation of this 'comedy of errors' sort of leadership style of Christie is that he appears and sounds like a great speaker but is a lousy communicator. He is totally incapable of getting whatever his message is across to the average Bahamian.
Yes, dearly beloved, Christie is an amateur of the highest order. He has been stark naked, politically, for quite some time but it took two simple letters penned by Hubert A. Ingraham, former prime minister, to expose him as an amateur and a bumbler of unprecedented proportions. Christie, to put it gently, is too distant and too unconnected to reality.
God will have to come down from Heaven to rescue his people if Christie remains as leader of the PLP at the conclusion of the upcoming convention. Unless and until he is dethroned by the Dauphin Prince, dog will continue to eat our lunch; the nation will continue to drift; the ranks of displaced workers and the unemployed will continue and, for sure, crime and the fear of crime will continue to stifle all progress.
Only an amateur such as Christie could have presided over the meltdown of Baha Mar while toting that things would be "dead good" soon! What an amateur. I'd laugh if it were not so tragic for my people. His boorish and amateurish behavior and utterances, of course, do not affect me at all because I have known for a long time that Christie is full of bluster, hot air and vacuousness.
The good governance of a country is not, I postulate, predicated on so-called charisma and personality, it is about results. Apart from regulating and taxing the web industry and the roll out of value-added tax (VAT), show me one single other thing that Christie would have achieved since returning to high office. Except for one or two, show me the stellar performance of his out of touch cabinet colleagues.
It is obvious that the web industry operators are being played by this administration. Whether or not the administration is hoping to win a three or four ball is academic. What is clear, however, at least to me, is that the operators will be held in the dance at least until after the upcoming convention. Where did all the talk about a National Lottery go? Were there pay-offs and if so to whom? Who is the alleged bribe taker then at BEC? Not a word from the globetrotting attorney general.
I have no time to play doll-house with a man who lives in the fifth dimension. Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis has only two options. Challenge Christie on the floor of the convention or remain in the shadows forever.
To God then, in all things, be the glory - but Lord, if it be thy will, please relieve us of the burden of having a rank amateur as our prime minister.

- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.

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People on bail should not be granted Urban Renewal repairs contracts

July 23, 2015

Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis yesterday was in defense of the Urban Renewal Small Home Repairs Programme in the House of Assembly. The auditor general's report, which was obtained by The Nassau Guardian in April, revealed that 11 contractors were paid $171,000 for work that was not completed or never done. Auditor General Terrance Bastian concluded that it was difficult to determine if the government got "value for money".
Davis said yesterday that an independent report into the program has revealed that several aspects of the auditor general's report are "erroneous". He added that the report "troubled" him and prompted him to commission experts in the construction field to examine the veracity of the auditor general's findings.
The governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has been attacking the auditor general - a constitutional officer - since the report was made public by this newspaper. The deputy prime minister's intervention yesterday was much of the same. What Davis said that was extraordinary, however, pertained to the individuals the government gave Urban Renewal contracts to.
"We still believe in giving a second chance to individuals who have run afoul of the law," he said. "Yes, we all deserve a second chance. Even the Apostle Peter was given a second chance. Many of the Small Home Repairs Programme contractors have tarnished criminal records; in fact, a few are out on bail.
"This government deliberately retained those who had the requisite construction skills and gave them contracts to repair houses, and they embraced the opportunities and executed repair works that have withstood keen scrutiny."
We support the effort of the government to give reformed individuals a second chance. Men and women who were criminals but have given up that life should be supported. The help of the state and private employers could be the difference that ensures that these individuals do not return to their former ways.
The government, however, should not give contracts to people on bail. The government should especially not give contracts to people on bail to go into the homes of citizens as contractors. What exactly are these people on bail for? Murder? Rape? Burglary? Housebreaking? Armed robbery? Stealing?
A person on bail still has an active matter to answer for before the courts. In these cases, the alleged crime happened fairly recently. This means that an individual who may have committed a home invasion and rape within the last six to 12 months could have been given a contract by our government to come into your home to repair it.
The policy of granting Urban Renewal contracts to people on bail is an extraordinary violation of the public trust by the government. The government needs to reveal how many people have been given Urban Renewal contracts who are out on bail. The government also needs to reveal what these people are out on bail for.
The opposition Free National Movement (FNM) should press the government on this issue. These accused people should have their matters heard before the courts and then demonstrate that they are committed to living honest lives before they are engaged in programs designed for ex-offenders, reformed criminals or those who have lost their way

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Lightbourn says PAC stands by auditor general's report

July 23, 2015

Richard Lightbourn, member of Parliament for Montagu and member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said yesterday the committee has to stand by the report of the auditor general until it is able to analyze the Technical Evaluation Report for Small Home Repairs (Phase I), tabled by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis in the House of Assembly.
"That's the report that was provided to the government, and so that is the one we need to rely on," said Lightbourn.
"Now this further report they (the government) have obtained, I have no idea of the specifics. We have to find out what was stated [in the report] and compare it with the report of the auditor general."
During his communication, Davis tabled the report and said he commissioned Island Dimensions & Development Co. Ltd and J. D. Chisholm & Associates to conduct an independent report to verify the quality of repair works that were completed under the Urban Renewal Small Home Repairs Programme (SHR) to determine whether there was value for money and to make any recommendations to improve efficiencies for further consideration.
Davis said the report revealed almost 94.2 percent of all repair works was completed when set against the intended scope of works and, in some instances, contractors went beyond the scope of works.
Prime Minister Perry Christie tabled the auditor general's report last week.
According to the report, leaked to The Guardian in April, Auditor General Terrance Bastian found that there was a lack of accountability, transparency and due diligence in the management of the SHR program, its execution and the quality of work done.
He also found that 11 contractors were paid $171,000 for work that was either incomplete or never done.
The leak sparked controversy around the program.
House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major had directed the PAC to "stay its hand" in relation to any investigation surrounding the auditor general's report.
He ruled that because the report had not been tabled in the House, the PAC could not take "cognizance of the report".
He determined that it was up to the House to decide whether it wished to cause the report to be tabled.
Major made his decision after an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General said the PAC's investigation into Urban Renewal was "legally improper".
A copy of the opinion was given to Major on April 22.
The opinion said the course of action taken by the PAC in summoning the Urban Renewal co-chairs, after they refused to appear before the PAC, was legally improper because the auditor general's report had not been laid before the House.
PAC Chairman Hubert Chipman told The Nassau Guardian on Tuesday that he expects the committee to complete its investigation into Urban Renewal next month and table its report in the House of Assembly before September.

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Two murder trials end in acquittals

July 23, 2015

Two murder trials ended in acquittals yesterday.
In the first case, jurors believed that Charles Hanna used justifiable force when he fatally shot a 17-year-old vigilante.
According to the evidence, the deceased, Jarvell Gardiner, 17, was among three people who were attacking Hanna's neighbor Kimble McPhee on November 22, 2012.
McPhee was with a man who had robbed Gardiner's nephew of a pair of Oakley sunglasses earlier that morning, the court heard.
According to McPhee, he was with a person identified only as Jason, who robbed a student of T.A. Thompson Junior High School of a pair of Oakley sunglasses.
McPhee said three men, one armed with a pipe and the others wielding bottles came to his home at Hawthorne Road a short time later and demanded the stolen sunglasses, which he handed over.
McPhee said he tried to inch away to avoid a beating, but he was struck across the back with the pipe. He said the other men threw their bottles but missed.
At this point, McPhee said Hanna, his neighbor, came with his shotgun.
McPhee said he heard the gun fire as he ran through a short cut to escape the men.
Ramona Farquharson represented Hanna at his trial before Justice Vera Watkins. Raquel Whymms prosecuted.
In the second case, attorney Murrio Ducille convinced a jury that Richardo Brown was not responsible for the murder of Timothy Rolle before Acting Justice Cheryl Grant-Bethell.
Rolle, who was also known as "Tim Rat", was sitting with friends on a porch on Myrton Avenue in Chippingham when a gunman dressed in all black approached and fatally shot him in November 2013.
Some witnesses said it was too dark to identify the gunman. However, two brothers who are now dead gave witness statements purporting to identify Rolle as the shooter. Their witness statements were read into evidence.
The jury did not accept the evidence and acquitted Brown.
Gordon Soles prosecuted.

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BNT's Grand Bahama parks provide a great summer experience

July 23, 2015

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - This summer has been a true outdoor expedition for the Grand Bahama branch of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) as it hosted its own summer safari camp as well as welcomed various local campers to their Grand Bahama parks.
"Education is very important to us here at the BNT. We are always extremely happy to take young people on tours of the national parks that we manage," said Ellsworth Weir, BNT park warden. "Through these summer camp tours and presentations, students have learned about the parks and their ecosystems and also about taking care of our very fragile environment."
Campers from St. Paul's, The Salvation Army, the GB Western District and the Charles Hayward Summer Camps all visited either the Lucayan National Park, the Rand Nature Center or both over the last month.
Lucayan National Park (LNP) is the most visited national park in the BNT's park system and encompasses one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world, as well as exhibiting every vegetative zone found in The Bahamas. The park is also a great adventure for young people as they have the choice of exploring via the bridge or through the nature trail where they can see crabs retreating to their holes. "The caves at LNP amazed the campers," said Weir. "The bats give the caves that spooky feeling and the kids loved it. They all left LNP with a new appreciation for our Bahamian environment."
The Rand Nature Center is another important park in the GB park system as well as being home to the GB BNT's administrative offices, educational facilities and the Glory Banks Art Gallery. This park provides another exciting experience for children as they have an opportunity to use their energy to explore trails through the Bahamian pine forests.
"It's always exciting to host young visitors to our parks, kids really like to explore," said Lisa Wildgoose, BNT office manager at the Rand Nature Center. "After our park tours, the kids left exhausted from taking in everything our national parks had to offer."
As the summer has still has quite a few weeks left, the BNT encourages everyone to visit their national parks and let their young children explore the beauty of their parks. Parents can visit the BNT website to learn more about the all national parks and a quick call can help you plan your visit today.

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The right-sizing of BTC

July 22, 2015

Dear Editor,
It is difficult to remain noncommittal in the face of the farcical statements, righteous indignation and blame-naming by so many persons who have long known the facts concerning the present redundancies at BTC.
Whilst it is regrettable whenever employees must lose their jobs at BTC, or anywhere else for that matter, particularly in these difficult economic times, it is well known that competition in telecoms and lower prices for services come first at the expense of cutting operating costs, and specifically, lower staff costs.
The redundancies should therefore not be a surprise to anyone because the history of the long road to rightsizing BTC is well documented in the public arena.
In March 1997, the FNM party was returned to government with an impressive majority in parliament. Included in the FNM's platform for its second term was the privatization of the then monopolist telecommunications corporation, in keeping with international practices of the day.
Being the Bahamians that we are, few of us noted this inclusion in the party platform and even fewer of us understood the concept of privatization and what it would involve, nor, in the heat of the campaign, did we even care!
A year later, in March 1998, when the Cabinet engaged Deutsche Bank as the lead consultant for the corporation's privatization preparation, scant attention was again the order of the day, until September of 1998 when Deutsche produced its report.
The report was a reality check, a dash of cold water to a complacent and bloated corporation that provided its 2,200 employees with a cradle to grave financial security system, thanks to powerful unions which ensured employee compensation, regardless of competency or work ethics.
The Deutsche Report stated that the corporation only required 500 employees to run efficiently. All concerned laughed in disbelief at such a ridiculous recommendation.
How does an entity with 2,200+ employees running it need only 500 employees to run it efficiently, people asked. Did that mean that four or five people were doing the job that one person should be doing? Or was it that some employees had nothing to do?
In any event, the public brouhaha in early 1999 created by the unions of the corporation began with the amazed public looking on in disbelief. The first downsizing exercise via the "package" was conducted amid union dramatics, and millions of dollars of the public's money was dished out pursuant to very generous calculations.
By mid-1999 the corporation's employee population had been halved to some 1,100 employees in preparation for privatization. And guess what? Every employee at the corporation knew then that if half of the population could go, then eventually, the 500 employee goal could become a reality. Notice had been given that job security at the corporation could no longer be expected.
The general theory is that the 2002 election was lost by the FNM government because of the 1999 downsizing at BTC. Many of those who took the package had an expectation that they would be able to return to their jobs if their government was in power. The "no double dipping" policy, however, kept the 1999 numbers in check
The depressed global telecoms market in 2002-3 and the new administration's lukewarm attitude towards privatization meant that whilst privatization did not happen, and the employee numbers crept up by almost 100 employees, the employee count was mostly contained because it was accepted that a continued objective of the government (as evidenced by the "Bluewater deal" in 2007) was to privatize BTC. It was acknowledged that no serious purchaser would buy or pay a competitive price for an overpopulated company.
Privatization preparation at the company continued and again, everyone expected that whoever purchased BTC would further downsize the company because new technology was making many tasks less labor intensive. Some employees, however, because of the failures and delays in finding a strategic partner, decided that their prayers had been answered, privatization would never happen and so they settled comfortably into their previous expectations.
Finally, in 2011 after three years of more privatization preparation, when CWC entered into a Shareholders' Agreement to purchase BTC, it was clear that the employee numbers were still too high by modern industry standards, and that a further downsizing was inevitable in order to achieve the right size for an entity in a competitive industry, particularly given the fact that there was still cellular exclusivity, which accounted for a huge portion of BTC's revenue
The agreement, together with all of the other privatization documents were fully displayed on the government's website in February 2011 amidst much publicity and public discussion.There was no attempt to keep the details of the conditions of the purchase of 51 percent of BTC's shares by CWC a secret.
The 2011-2 downsizing was a voluntary separation exercise which ultimately saw almost 470 employees exit the company.
Many of those employees who left BTC in 2011-2 had observed the 1999 downsizing and had been preparing themselves for the eventuality that their turn would come. Many embraced the opportunity to leave, having prepared themselves financially for early departure.They too left with generous packages.
And so the population of BTC moved closer to its "right" size and the 1998 figure of 500 seemed to be very achievable.
The transition to digitized networks in particular, required fewer employees, and call centers and franchising of services ensured a smaller staff size. It was common knowledge that the expiration of the cellular exclusivity in 2015 would see a 40 percent to 60 percent loss of customers to a new cellular company together with the accompanying revenue. And loss of revenue would mean that further downsizing would be inevitable.
And so, in early 2015,as the cellular exclusivity expired, a second voluntary separation exercise was introduced. Employees were apparently informed by the company that if sufficient numbers were not achieved then a redundancy exercise as provided for under the relevant articles of the union agreements would commence. And this brings us to the present.
We appreciate how all of this job uncertainty was stressful and depressing for employees but short of being one's father's company, nothing is promised and nothing had been promised in that regard at BTC since 1998. The wise employees, after 1999, began preparing themselves for the reality of downsizing and alternative employment beyond BTC.
Employers, as we have heard, run their businesses for a profit and a large profit preferably. Only the government entertains subsidizing unprofitable entities. In 2015, however, the Bahamian public has no appetite for another Bahamasair or another ZNS, and with the Baha Mar fiasco and the pending BEC troubles, BTC should be way down the list.
Frankly, the Bahamian public is sick and tired of the pathetic complaints from the union leaders that the employer is being inhumane and unfair. Why do they think that the redundancy article is in the union agreements?
And the public has lost all patience with employees who they regard as spoiled and indulged for no good reason, and their general attitude that somehow, the many must pay the price for the chosen few.
The majority shareholder of BTC must do what it has to do in order to run a lean, efficient and profitable entity. It is as simple as that. Those union leaders who are carrying on would do no less with their own businesses.
The government must play its part by taking its heavy foot up off the telecoms sector and allowing the sector to grow and flourish, thereby creating new job opportunities for the unemployed.The government must remove the stop order on the cellular liberalization process immediately and either cancel it and start again (good luck on that with all of the anti foreign sentiments flying around) or conclude it.
Better still,why not change the legislation and award two licenses, one to Cable Bahamas and one to Virgin and let the market go with it - the public will benefit greatly with much cheaper prices!
Further, the government must remove itself from any significant ownership in BTC and in any other telecoms entities (defined as less that 15 percent). The government's job is to set policy and create the positive economic climate to attract much needed foreign investment dollars.
The archaic and oppressive immigration restrictions that are choking the economy must also be revised and modernized, again, to encourage foreign investment in telecoms which is so crucial for that industry.
The onerous fees and taxes specifically imposed on telecoms providers which severely impact the cost of doing business and the number of employees must also be reduced.
Those are some of the policies by which advanced countries ensure jobs for their citizens.
Further, the government must become visionary and proactive and seek to provide opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs to grow and succeed by diversifying the economy and creating a non partisan climate, a level playing field for all.
The paternalistic government job mentality is destroying creativity and independent efforts in our population and, in 2015 dependency on the government should not be encouraged or tolerated.
Certainly a diversified, striving, thriving and sustainable economy makes it easier for everyone to find or create work.

- Felicity L. Johnson

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The ongoing fight against crime

July 22, 2015

The crime problem in The Bahamas is centered in New Providence. It has been an issue for nearly a decade. It has gotten no better.
A man was shot dead on Hay Street on Monday night following a card game. The 19 year old was the 83rd person murdered in The Bahamas this year.
Chief Superintendent Paul Rolle said officers responding to reports of gunshots found him in the street shot in the face. He said based on preliminary reports the man was gambling with six other people in the hallway of an apartment complex around 10 p.m.
"We are not certain whether the gambling game is [related] to his death or something else, but we appeal to those people who were a part of the game to reach out to us and help us to advance this investigation," Rolle said.
This time last year there were 65 murders. Murders are up 27.69 percent this year. We are on pace to exceed the record murder count of 2011 when 127 were killed.
Earlier this month, Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage announced that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved a $20 million loan to the government to help fund the fight against crime. He said access to the funds is the "most important event" in the crime fight in recent times.
Nottage added that together with the IDB the government came up with several crime-fighting strategies that include targeting at-risk youth, strengthening the justice system and improving reintegration programs.
The government is also doubling down on the police presence in our inner-city communities - the places where the majority of these crimes occur. The officers of the Mobile Division can be seen in large numbers in areas such as Bain Town. These efforts have not led to a reduction in murders this year, but more police presence is a step in the right direction.
While police resources are increasingly directed toward fighting violent crime in the inner city, the Royal Bahamas Police Force should not forget the residents in the suburbs and more upwardly mobile communities. Those areas do not have the same number of shootings and killings. They are, however, vulnerable to property crimes and robberies. The residents in the suburbs are taxpayers too. A large number of police cars are not needed for the suburbs. A consistent visible presence should be there too, however.
The solutions to the crime problem on this island are not all law enforcement based, of course. We must invest in our young people; reform our schools; discourage young unmarried women from having children too young; we must find jobs for our young people to deter them from considering the life of crime.
The governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has not found the right mix of measures yet to lead to a significant reduction in the rate of violence and killings on the streets of New Providence. The PLP must keep at it, though. While many Bahamians have problems with the party and its leader, we all hope they will be successful in the crime fight.

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Passion Discovering her

July 22, 2015

Shannan Yates has always had a passion for the environment, but it wasn't until she met Dr. Chuck Knapp, vice-president, conservation and research at Shedd Aquarium at a conference on Bahamian natural history that she realized she didn't necessarily have to work as a medical doctor.
The College of the Bahamas senior who is studying towards a Bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in chemistry says even though she pursued the course of study that she did, she did not have a desire to enroll in medical school, or don a white coat to work in a hospital.
Yates, 26, questioned whether she would make a difference in a "normal career" in a sterile hospital versus working as a field researcher.
"Everyone who takes biology with chemistry at COB are going to go off to medical school and become doctors, and I was very conflicted about it. I really wanted to do something with the environment and nature, and when I met Dr. Knapp, he said we're having this expedition going to Exuma and we're studying Bahamian rock iguanas, I was like okay, sign me up. Where do I sign?"
During the citizen science iguana research exhibition in the Exuma Cays, Yates says she fell in love with the iguanas during the eight-days she spent aboard the Coral Reef, the research vessel in the spring of 2104.
Yates who blogged about her experience, and of which a post appeared in the June edition of the National Geographic submitted by the John G. Shedd Aquarium said the expedition with Dr. Knapp helped her clear up her indecisiveness and questions.
"My experience on that expedition -- adjusting to the harsh weather and elements -- proved to me that the white lab coat in some hospital was not going to be my career path," wrote Yates. "I found an unexplainable love for field research and the Exuma Cays Rock Iguana (Cyclura cychlura giggisi) in an experience that I will never forget."
After that initial experience, Yates was again invited by Dr. Knapp to join him on Shedd's iguana research expedition to Andros Island to study its endemic iguana (Cyclura cychlura cuchlura). Yates took fecal samples, collected blood smears, performed ultrasound imaging and measuring the tail volume of the iguanas in their natural habitat. In total Yates and the team measured and released 46 iguanas (11 of which had already been documented in previous research), and found the species in three new locations.
The research she helped to conduct and the data collected contributed to Dr. Knapp's research which focuses on how the diets of iguanas isolated from humans, and those who are being constantly fed junk food by tourists, affects them.
Yates said the expeditions provided her with a crash course in decades of knowledge obtained by Dr. Knapp and others like Dr. John Iverson (Earlham College), Dr. Susannah French (Utah State University), and Dr. Dale DeNardo (Arizona State University), information that would be valuable to her as she furthers her education.
The COB student says she would like to continue studying Bahamian rock iguanas. And that being able to continue to study Bahamian wildlife in general is a dream she would like to fulfill. She has also applied to schools to pursue a master's degree program.
"The thing that I really like about it is that you can actually go out and collect data and interpret that data and get real time results, and it's not a one-day thing -- you have to continue with it. For the iguana expedition, Chuck has been doing it for some 25-plus years, and we have all this data because of that. And you need someone to continue collecting that data," she said.
Of her experiences with Dr. Knapp who oversees Shedd's on-site and global conservation research programs -- including those of postdoctoral researchers studying aquatic issues in Guyana, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Great Lakes -- with the ultimate goal of saving wild animals and imperiled ecosystems, Yates said no classroom would ever teach her how to safely handle a wild animal the way Dr. Knapp has mastered over the years.
Dr. Knapp's work has led to the expansion of West Side National Park in Andros, a 1.2 million acre national park that protects a large area of pristine coastal wetlands that are the most productive marine nursery in The Bahamas. It is prime habitat for bonefish and an important feeding area for the endangered West Indian Flamingo.
In the future Yates hopes to still be assisting with the conservation of iguanas. And she said she has encountered quite a few "raised eyebrows" over her decision.
"I've been asked if I was sure about this and whether I wouldn't want to become a doctor, and I'm pretty sure," she said.
For Yates who now plans to utilize her education outside a "normal job" she says for her education means preservation of the future.
"Without really knowing what's happening now, what happened in the past, you really can't appreciate what you have. And without that education there is no appreciation," she said. "It would be a travesty if my great grandchildren don't know or can't see an iguana."
Besides the expeditions with Dr. Knapp, Yates has engaged in a number of conservation activities this summer. Most recently she engaged in a six-week internship at Forfar Field Station on Andros; and participated in a seven-week internship with the Leon Levy Preserve on Eleuthera, a national park that is an environmental educational center as well as a facility for the propagation of native plants and trees.
As for penning the contribution posted by Shedd Aquarium for National Geographic, Yates said described it as an "awesome" experience for her.
"When [Dr. Knapp] came to me with the idea of blogging about my experience, I was like yes. I wanted to raise awareness [and show] that [The Bahamas] does have students here that are capable of doing fieldwork and they're willing to do it. And we have students who don't necessarily want to do the cookie-cutter or normal jobs," she said.

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Eight Bahamians awarded Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation scholarships

July 22, 2015

Eight Bahamians are among a record 36 Caribbean-based students who have received a portion of $141,800 in funding from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation (CHTAEF), enabling Caribbean nationals to pursue higher education in hospitality and tourism fields.
Kirvez Ferguson has received a scholarship to Johnson & Wales to study food service management; Brittney Hanna will study culinary at Johnson & Wales; Tarran Simms will study sustainable tourism at Arizona State University; Dwayne Sinclair will pursue studies in hospitality management at Kendall College; Donovan Smith will study culinary at Johnson & Wales; Kenia Taylor will pursue studies in tourism management at Florida International University (scholarship funded by Interval International); Blaire Thompson will attend Johnson & Wales to study culinary and Travis Delva will pursue hospitality management at Johnson & Wales.
Scholarships were awarded based on prior academic achievements, previous work or internships in the Caribbean hospitality industry and economic needs.
Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) President Stuart Bowe said the association was pleased to once again partner with the CHTAEF in offering the scholarships to the deserving Bahamians to a university of their choosing.
"The BHTA has a strong workforce development program and our aim is to ensure the sustainability of our industry and equip future industry professionals with the relevant competencies for success," said Bowe. "The BHTA with the assistance of our members will continue to support the New York Times Travel Show auction, which raises funds for this worthy initiative."
CHTAEF chairman Richard Kahn said the Board of Trustees this year had a difficult time choosing who to provide funding for scholarships to due to the strong applicant pool.
"Most of the 85-plus applicants deserved to receive funds

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Junior school students receive an education in water importance

July 22, 2015

Forest Heights School's Jovan Bailey and Temple Christian School's Chris Wu topped their respective categories to win at the Water and Sewerage Corporation's (WSC) Wet and Wise Essay and Video Competition for junior school students.
Bailey from Abaco snagged the win in the essay competition. Eight Mile Rock High School's Waynesha Thompson out of Grand Bahama, was second with Carlton Taylor from St. Andrew's Anglican School, Exuma, third.
Wu topped the video category. Jayvanna August, from Eight Mile Rock High School out of Grand Bahama was second; Ketora Clarke from Eight Mile Rock High School, Grand Bahama, was third.
The top winners in both categories received laptops, and a winner's plaque. Second place winners received tablets and a plaque and third place winners received plaques along with WSC gift bags. During the recent WSC month-long celebration of National Water Month the corporation encouraged primary school students to conserve water and learn about the importance of water in their everyday lives. As part of their student education they also held the Wet and Wise Essay and Video Competition for junior school students. The contest allowed junior high students from around the country to submit essays or videos on the theme: "Water & Energy -- Inseparable Friends".
"The National Essay/Video Competition is the signature event during National Water Month because it helps to accent the primary reason for the observance of National Water Month," Visna Armbrister, WSC public affairs manager.
"Despite the month-long activities and a very busy schedule, which included customer appreciation days, the essay and video competition is truly a highlight to our activities as it helps the Corporation carry out its mandate to inform and educate the public of the importance of water as a precious resource. If our youth can help us send that message, then we feel we've achieved our purpose for celebrating," said Armbrister.

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Teens 'Hack.IT' at STEMBoard camp

July 22, 2015

Suggestions to prevent frequent power outages and technological strategies to help the Royal Bahamas Defence Force were among the ideas students presented to facilitators at this year's STEMBoard's Hack.IT camp. The junior and senior school students, who learnt to operate drones, vied to win prizes when Dr. Bernard Harris, Jr., the first African-American to walk in space served as chief judge at the camp at St. Andrew's School.
Aisha Bowe, the youngest Bahamian-American female to work with NASA, along with John Martellaro co-founded STEMBoard, the company hosted the summer program for Bahamian youth. The team included students from the Family Islands and through the donations of sponsors the camp was free of charge, complete with lunch and for some students, bus transportation.
The camp began with Bowe encouraging an impromptu think-tank, splitting the youngsters into teams and inviting them to come up with resolutions to technological challenges facing The Bahamas.
Stephen Seymour, 16, who says he wants to work in the STEM field as either an astronaut or an engineer, presented four ideas with his team on how the Royal Bahamas Defense Force could benefit from using advanced technology.
With an interest in becoming an aerospace engineer, Willford Moss was one of over 50 students who showed up to participate in the camp. His father Celi Moss said that the camp not only provided hands on learning but also allowed his son to see firsthand the possibilities to make it in an industry that seems overlooked in The Bahamas.
"The STEM industries are the way forward," said Moss. "I look at my son and the other like-minded young people here and wonder which one of them could be the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. We really need to consider investing in our youth in this arena because there are so many possibilities. I'm very proud to know that Aisha has come back to nurture the next generation of thinkers who can very well change our world. I'm excited to see what the future will hold for all of the camp attendees."
During the opening of the camp, author, BET talk show host and entertainer Derek "Fonzworth Bentley" Watkins gave attendees entrepreneurial food for thought. The Morehouse graduate revealed he worked as a researcher in a genetics lab after earning a degree in biology before heading on the hip hop circuit to work with the likes of Sean "Diddy" Combs and Kanye West. He also signed copies of his book "Advance Your Swagger".
"There are some students from last year who are back this year," said Bowe. "I personally am very excited to work directly with these students. They have global mindsets and have already put in research into their projects. So far, they are working well in their teams on their various projects and we are all excited to see what they will be presenting at the end of the week."
This year's STEMBoard camp is sponsored by Millennium Engineering and Integration Company, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, URCA, CBS Tech Emporium, K3 Enterprises, Adorn the World, Change Catalyst, Caribbean Innovation Ventures and Production Services Management Inc.

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It's good to cry

July 22, 2015

There are unfortunately a whole lot of people who incorrectly think that it's a sign of weakness when one cries, particularly men who were perhaps taught that as that well-known saying puts it, big boys don't cry. Well, as far as I'm concerned that's a load of nonsense. It really is. Let me tell you unashamedly, that this big boy cries from time to time, for it's a real, natural cleanser of body, mind and spirit.
That's right, there are great benefits to be derived from the act of crying -- just Google it and check it out for yourself. When people are hurting when they lose a loved one for example, it is indeed quite natural and very important for that person to be able to cry as it assists in the grieving, the healing process and it is quite natural to cry. It's God's divine method of replenishing the human body as it actually assists in releasing toxins from the body.
The whole process of crying makes a person feel better, as we all know that after a good cry we do indeed feel replenished. It's as if the tears shed cleansed the body and washed away the tension, the sadness ... the stress, for it actually produces endorphins that make us feel good.
Now some people are of the opinion that if you cry a lot, it's a sign of weakness -- well, as I've stated before that's a load of nonsense. Believe me, ask anyone who knows me real well, I'm a very strong person, and yet when I went on the Internet the day Nelson Mandela died and saw the story unfold, the tears literally streamed down my cheeks uncontrollably because I admired him so much. Yes my friend, believe me, as today's title correctly states it, it's good to cry. Yes it is!

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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Anatol Rodgers and Government High School vie to receive corporate mentorship and financial support

July 22, 2015

Anatol Rodgers and Government High School are vying for the chance to be the first recipient of the Tristar Education Optimization Program (TEOP) launched by Tristar Insurance Agents & Brokers Ltd.
TEOP is a pilot program designed to provide targeted corporate mentorship and financial support to one public high school in New Providence. TEOP will provide a 360-degree approach to mentorship for the chosen school. This will include sponsored leadership initiatives with mentorship from successful Bahamian professionals to support the school's current character-building efforts. Financial support by way of investments in the school's technological resources will also be made. Students will also receive summer work-study opportunities and career training experience at Tristar's offices.
Tristar, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2016, is committed to having a hand in the development of the Bahamian youth through education and character building programs.
"Education is a key that opens the door to a brighter future," said Harold Antor, Tristar CEO. "That's what we are about."
At the tertiary level, Tristar has partnered with The College of The Bahamas to become a President's Scholars Program donor. One student from the chosen TEOP school will be granted a four-year scholarship to attend The College of The Bahamas including entry into the college's prestigious President's Scholars Program.
Anatol Rodgers and Government High School will make formal presentations to an independent selection committee comprised of Davinia Blair, director of development, alumni relations and development, The College of The Bahamas; Elma Garraway, former Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary; Andrew Roberts, human resources director, John Bull and Debra Symonette, financial controller, Super Value. The chosen school will be announced in August.
"I wish to highly commend TRISTAR Insurance Company for this important intervention program, said Garraway. "The experiences of educators and teachers are supported by a large body of research which confirms that when young persons/high school students find support, advice, positive reinforcement and constructive role-modeling in caring adults, they develop confidence, self esteem and skills needed to be successful in school and in life. Furthermore, I believe that this program has the potential to not only help more students graduate, but also ensure higher academic motivation and achievement."

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Planting seeds

July 22, 2015

Preparing young Bahamians for engagement in two critical components of the national economy, the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) held a Summer Education Enrichment Discovery (SEEDS) Programme for students from the R.N. Gomez All-Age School in the Berry Islands. The week long program introduced students to a cross section of activities in the agricultural and marine science sectors.
"A significant part of our portfolio is to engage with young Bahamians to build an interest in agriculture and also marine science," said BAMSI's Executive Director Dr. Raveenia Roberts-Hanna. "At the end of the day we want to be able to attract the brightest and the best into these industries and one way to do that is to show students that agriculture is a viable career option by allowing them to participate in the 'gate to the plate' experience."
Led by Principal Brian Williams, the R.N. Gomez contingent -- students Perry Butler, Jakyle Barry and Tamia Francis; Vice-principal Christine Saunders and biology teacher Elva Brown -- spent an intense week going from the classroom to the farm to the community. Their time in the classroom was spent exploring the theoretical underpinnings of an assortment of agriculture-related topics, from soil science, animal science and drip irrigation to marine studies, aquaponics, and also agribusiness and entrepreneurship. The practical aspect of the program saw them at the farm, visiting the greenhouse, packing-house and also the expanding aquaponics facility.
"We are in love with the vision, what we saw here during the week we really love it. We look forward to partnering with BAMSI going forward because it's something we believe in and it's something that definitely should continue," said Williams. "We were hearing what BAMSI is doing in North Andros, and we had a visit from Dr. Hanna earlier in the year when she explained what is being done here and what they offer so we came to BAMSI because we wanted to get the full experience to assist with our agriculture program."
According to the principal, R.N. Gomez has a small agriculture module that is facilitated by Christine Atwood of Ripples of Hope, an internationally-based nonprofit organization that engages in global projects that empower the local community. The school does not currently have an agriculture teacher, but the program is operated on a volunteer basis by staff and students. Spearheaded by Dirk McAulay, a teacher in the math and science department, the students work on the plot and in the greenhouse afterschool and on weekends learning how to prepare the soil and plant seedlings such as tomatoes, cabbage, eggplant, corn and even strawberries. It was through the generosity of Ripples of Hope that the trip to BAMSI was made possible.
"The students can now go back and apply what they've learned at BAMSI. This week went above and beyond our expectations, we got a whole wealth of knowledge and it has inspired some of our students to come to BAMSI as students," said Williams.
The principal said the scope of the North Andros project left him in awe. "Via the media you only hear bits and pieces, but when you get here and you see and hear firsthand what is going on and where the project is headed it's mind-blowing."
He was also interested in the aquaponics and aquaculture aspect. "I'm looking forward to coming back when that is set up to see exactly how that is going to work. Even the greenhouse... I really like that because it's giving us ideas of what we could do because we have a greenhouse set up and this is what I would like to see our greenhouse looking like in the future."
Saunders said she too was impressed with what she had seen. "Look at the bananas, I'm impressed with the work that it entails to grow them. It's amazing how they take the flowers off the bananas to protect them from insects. Every tiny little aspect they have to look into it. They can't let a mark get on the bananas because that one they can't take to the market."
A sentiment expressed by all was their inability to grasp the extent of the BAMSI project before their visit.
"BAMSI has a vision, all The Bahamas should be a part of that vision because it will benefit the country," said Brown, the visiting biology teacher.
As a vegetarian, she also expressed an interest in the aquaponics system once she found out that it did not have to be an expensive process and that the use of simple materials could yield a rich bounty of vegetables. She also noted that come September she would introduce aspects of agriculture into her biology classes.
Perry Butler, 17, who heads into the 12th grade come September, said his trip to BAMSI has caused him to reconsider his career options once he graduates. While he has an interest in backyard farming he initially wanted to enter the civil service as either a Customs or Immigration Officer, the R.N. Gomez student said he now thinks he will attend BAMSI and pursue a degree in marine science. Among the highlights of his trip, he said he enjoyed vising the green house and the aquaponics facility.
With the first installment of the SEEDS program successful, BAMSI's hope is that more schools and youth groups engage with BAMSI, to drive further interest in the industry, attracting more students to the Institute and into the sector overall.
"The launch of the SEEDS program is not only about the long-term increase of our student population at BAMSI, but creating an awareness of agriculture and building interest in the subsectors such as backyard farming, aquaponics, aquaculture, animal science, conservation issues and even the transformation of locally grown items into sought after produce and end-products," said Dr. Roberts-Hanna. "Particularly for those students who come from schools who do not have an agricultural program, we want to bring the sector to life for them, and ultimately plant a seed that in years to come will ensure a rich harvest for The Bahamas -- see the development of sustainable practices and our ability to feed ourselves."

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CCA: Debtors do not have substantive U.S. connection

July 22, 2015

Supplementary evidence filed yesterday by China Construction America (CCA) Bahamas Ltd. in its bid to dismiss Baha Mar's Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases in the U.S. bankruptcy court of Delaware calls into question the legitimacy of Baha Mar's claims that it operates businesses and incurred expenses in the state of Florida.
The supplement to Exhibit D in CCA's motion contains a suite of declarations signed and sealed by Secretary of State of Florida Ken Detzner on July 20 stating that the records of the Florida Department of State do not disclose corporations by the name of the following entities "foreign or domestic, active or dissolved": Baha Mar Sales Company Ltd., Baha Mar Support Services Ltd., BMP Golf Ltd., BMP Three Ltd., Cable Beach Resorts Ltd., Riviera Golf Ventures Ltd., and BML Properties Ltd.
The supplement added to the previous Florida Department of State certifications filed on Monday pertaining to Baha Mar Enterprises Ltd., Baha Mar Entertainment Ltd., Baha Mar Land Holdings Ltd., Baha Mar Leasing Company Ltd., Baha Mar Ltd., Baha Mar Operating Company Ltd., and Baha Mar Properties Ltd.
Baha Mar's previous filings had indicated that the debtors had incurred "expenses for electricity, telephone, water, waste disposal, cable television, Internet, and other essential services... in the ordinary course of their businesses at Cable Beach, New Providence, The Bahamas and at offices located in Orlando and Miami, Florida."
According to a filing supporting the Baha Mar bankruptcy application in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, Northshore Mainland Services Inc. (Northshore), the entity under which Baha Mar's developers collectively filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection, leases and manages call centers in Florida and New Jersey.
However, CCA's motion points out that the debtors listed only Bahamian utility providers. Furthermore, CCA charged that the only U.S. tax liability that the debtors alleged was a $100,000 sales and use tax owed to the Florida Department of Revenue.
"It is clear that none of the debtors have a connection with the United States such that the exercise of jurisdiction in the United States would be neither economic nor efficient. The debtors have failed to demonstrate that Northshore, despite being incorporated in Delaware, holds assets in or conducts substantive business in the United States: the company is licensed to do business in Florida but seems to have no office there, and it appears that it opened a New Jersey office for the sole purposes of this bankruptcy... Although these other debtors purport to have one collective office in Florida, none of them are authorized to do business in Florida," read the CCA motion.
CCA filed a motion to have Delaware's bankruptcy court dismiss with prejudice Northshore's application for Chapter 11 protection. The Bahamian Supreme Court is expected to make a decision today as to whether it will grant Baha Mar's application seeking authorization of those U.S. proceedings.

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More Baha Mar creditors file claims

July 22, 2015

Bahamas Waste Limited has filed a $11,601.21 claim against Baha Mar Properties Ltd. and a separate claim against Baha Mar Ltd. for $60,509.26. In addition, The Sign Man Co. Ltd. has filed four claims against Baha Mar Ltd. ranging from $17,250 to $121.50 for a combined value of roughly $30,000.
As of yesterday, just over 50 claims had been filed against the resort's developers. Last week, Northshore Mainland Services Inc., the Delaware-based company under which the Baha Mar group of companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, received a substantial $1.8 million claim from U.S. mechanical and electrical consulting engineering giant Jaros Baum & Bolles (JBB).
Baha Mar's top 20 creditors, which includes the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, contractors China Construction America (Bahamas), and construction firm Yates-Osprey, are collective owed approximately $120 million. Despite the considerable number of local creditors, no Bahamian companies are directly represented on Baha Mar's official committee of unsecured creditors.
That committee earlier issued a notice of appearance and demand for service of papers relating to Baha Mar's ongoing Chapter 11 cases and is scheduled to have its next meeting on August 3.
Yates-Osprey, a joint venture, is the closest thing to Bahamian representation on the committee. That firm yesterday filed a notice of appearance and request for service in Delaware's bankruptcy court.
Acting U.S. Trustee Andrew R. Vara last week appointed the following creditors to the committee: Yates-Osprey, Purchasing Solutions International Inc., Schadler Kramer Group, LLC. Dba SK&G, Suddath Global Logistics Bahamas, AECOM Technical Services, Terracon Consultants Inc., and SBE Hotel Management.
SBE, the operator of the SLS brand, brings a degree of representation for Baha Mar's brands.
However, neither of Baha Mar's two largest creditors - China Construction America and Bahamas Electricity Corporation- are represented on the committee.
The sway of firms within the unsecured creditors' committee typically hinges on the amount of money that they are owed and while the creditors committee's position will likely factor into any future action by the court, the bankruptcy trustee will ultimately decide on future matters involving the reimbursement of creditors.

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Sumner: Tripartite council can mediate in gratuities issue

July 22, 2015

Workers at the Melia Nassau Beach resort and the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) should cease "running after crumbs" in the wake of the union's defeat in the Supreme Court over gratuities, according to Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) CEO Edison Sumner.
Sumner told Guardian Business that he had sent an appeal to BHCAWU heads urging them take advantage of the National Tripartite Council in resolving the final outstanding issue in the dispute: calculating the rate of distribution for held gratuities to the resort's line staff.
"Having gone through a lengthy court battle over this and spending a lot of money... you can bring that matter now to the tripartite council and allow the council to assist in mediating this stand-off and try to help them come to a resolution on this matter.
"I understand the issue about the gratuity, and that's fine, but you're running after crumbs when there's a whole bread on the table that you can go after," he said.
Sumner encouraged the union to put greater effort into improving the level of training and skills in the tourism industry's labor force to ultimately provide workers with a stronger case for demanding higher wages and better opportunities in the workplace.
"Let's spend more time getting our workforce to be better trained so they can be more productive, increasing their level of skills so that we can begin closing the skills gap that exists in the country," stated Sumner.
Melia executives and its workers had been locked in a protracted dispute over gratuities at the resort following the executives' decision to remove the automatically included 15 percent gratuities from its all-inclusive vacation packages.

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