Nassau Guardian Stories
April 20, 2015
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will present a letter to Speaker of the House of Assembly Dr. Kendal Major this week notifying him that it intends to subpoena Urban Renewal Co-Chairs Algernon Allen and Cynthia "Mother" Pratt, The Nassau Guardian has learned...
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April 20, 2015
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) has signed an $8 million contract with Aggreko to provide an additional 40 megawatts of power over the next nine months, according to BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller...
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April 20, 2015
The Urban Renewal 2.0 program, as conceptualized by Prime Minister Perry Christie, is an excellent one. It is designed to uplift depressed areas of the nation, foster a sense of community, wipe away the tears from every eye and, of course, provide job training skills. The concept is wonderful and badly needed as a societal safety net. The successful implementation of this vital program could well be the first solid plank in what the PM seeks to be his legacy.
As the implementation rolls out there will, naturally, be hiccups, weak policy deployments and a degree of potential abuse. We are not a perfect people and we do not operate a perfect governmental system of checks and balances. It is, therefore, almost inevitable that there will be abuse, dishonesty and greed.
Having said that, it must be clearly understood and appreciated that individuals who hold statutory positions, protected by security of tenure under the constitution and other enabling legislation, should not be seen to be "attacked" on his/her integrity in a cavalier manner. A case in point is the recent report issued by the Auditor General relative to Urban Renewal 2.0. That report was hard hitting and contained some serious findings about the operational status of that program. It was brutal, to say the least.
Nowhere in that now celebrated report were any allegations of misconduct made against the co-chairs of that commission or any of the workers attached thereto. Slackness, lack of oversight and gross breaches of transparency were cited. No allegations of criminal behavior were made and the police have not been called in. The weaknesses which have been exposed are easily remedied and the broken system, such as it is, can be mended.
The office of Auditor General, at least under the watch of the current holder, Terrance Bastian, is not involved in politics and the bidding of any politician. This man is known to me and I am more than certain that his reputation and professional integrity are beyond reproach. The message that was delivered in the report may not be palatable to many, but the man and his staff merely did their mandated job. Why shoot the messenger because you don't like the message?
The PLP in this term in office has proved to be too secretive; thin skinned and prone to disparage its perceived and very real opposition. When the PM himself is not sending journalist and other media personalities 'to Hell' others in his administration seek to question the veracity and sincerity of all who dare to expose or oppose them. This seemingly intolerant attitude toward critics is bad for good governance and certainly does not bode well for the successful implementation of the long expected Freedom of Information Act.
The auditor general is to be complimented for exposing critical weaknesses in the execution and operations of Urban Renewal 2.0. No one should take it personally as no one was singled out. What is the beef all about?
More than a year ago, the PM, in the presence of almost half of the Cabinet at his plush offices out west, instructed the DPM to appoint me as media advisor to the Urban Renewal Commission. I have yet to be appointed, despite being a close political confidant and advisor to the DPM.
Is this a form of contempt toward me, or are there certain hidden forces within the PLP who do not wish to see me publicly rehabilitated and brought into this administration?
The PLP needs to ramp up its marketing and public relations. Bahamas Information Services should be the propaganda arm of the governing party and not a simple repository for partisan hacks and sycophants of any individual. Facts are stubborn things and will always convey the real message whether it is acknowledged or not.
The next scheduled general elections are just around the proverbial corner and the PLP and its leadership cadre really need to get a grip on reality and come to understand that they were elected to serve the people and to make life better for all Bahamians, not just known or perceived PLPs. The message of the PLP, such as it is, is being lost in translation and where it is able to be heard it is garbled and disconnected.
The V. Alfred Gray matter was bungled and should never have been referred to the police. Why was it in fact referred when there was no apparent evidence of corruption or criminal intent on the part of the erstwhile minister? Is there a faction within the PLP out to 'get' Gray? Cannibalism politically or posturing?
Few of us are able to forget or dismiss the Renward Wells debacle. The PM and Wells have yet to say one sensible word about this matter. Why, if it is about nothing and so simple? The stark lack of explanation is a gross contempt for the sensibilities of the average Bahamian. Communications, PM, is mandatory in public life, especially after 40 long years in the forefront.
A few short months ago, The Department of Statistics, which has always been considered impartial, was vilified by PLP politicians who questioned the accuracy of figures showing that the employment rate had gone up as opposed to coming down since the party was returned to office in 2012. Many of them shouted from the roof tops and cussed about personnel at that vital government agency.
The slight increase in unemployment should not have shocked anyone, especially the politicians who are supposed to be on top of things. The global economy, except for a few very isolated pockets, is still depressed and it will be at least another year before we see any real improvements. Direct Foreign Investment is still important to our overall economic picture but the time has come for real diversification of the financial base of The Bahamas.
We need to be more communicative and appear to be less hostile to perceived detractors. The ongoing saga with the developers at Baha Mar is atrocious and a natural disgrace. No, we do not have to bend down to the biddings of any investor but when one is anticipating the creation of more than 4,000 jobs at Cable Beach, we should seek to resolve all outstanding issues as quickly as possible so as to facilitate the delayed opening of that resort.
Sarkis Izmirlian lashed out at the Christie administration over several issues: crime, BEC and, of course, the wait for the return of Baha Mar's contribution toward the road construction linking Cable Beach to John F. Kennedy Drive. His project is the biggest one we have seen in a decade. It is too big to be allowed to fail or for the government to appear to be in an unseemly public squabble with its principals.
As a dedicated and lifelong PLP member and supporter, I will continue to encourage my colleagues in government to do the right thing, but I will call out recalcitrant members and keep their feet to the fire, where necessary.
To God then, in all things, be the glory.
- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
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April 20, 2015
I was extremely bothered by a press release sent out by COBUS about pending fee increases at The College of The Bahamas.
While in all honesty, the fees are affordable and the increase is probably necessary, I cannot see them asking for more money while providing less service.
There was an instance last year where the business office misplaced over $12,000 and this has yet to be rectified.
I am a biochemistry student and this semester was my worst yet at COB with all of my major classes being offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday back-to-back because there was some type of scheduling problem.
As students, we spoke up about this and yet there has been no change. The classes for us to register have not been placed on self-serve as yet.
Even lecturers understand and admit that there are so many colossal screw-ups with the administration of the college. In my program, one of the largest the college has, there are only three lower level courses being offered this summer.
When I asked my advisor why is this the case, I was sent to the dean who stated that students will need to sacrifice this summer because he isn't going to be allowing lecturers to be making any overtime. So I should suffer because of his issues?
How can you be asking for more money AGAIN? We already have a parking fee (with hardly any available parking spaces), technology fee (when there are never enough working computers or printers) and campus development fee (when nothing has changed).
Really, if this is the mentality of our administration, there is no way this college will ever become anything close to a university.
- Disillusioned student
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April 20, 2015
In this era of fiscal restraint, produced by the recent global financial crisis and deepened by our government's spending pledges following the implementation of value-added tax (VAT), it is not uncommon to hear that expenditure once considered vital must be either postponed indefinitely, or discontinued altogether.
For example, throughout the term of the current administration, and over the course of its predecessor's time in office, we have heard that back pay, overtime and other benefits owed to key sectors of the public service simply could not be afforded. Questions may arise over the extent to which our government's fiscal difficulties are self-inflicted; but one way or the other, by now we have all become familiar with the language of constraint.
Last week, the House of Assembly informed Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Hubert Chipman that Parliament does not have the funds to grant his request for public hearings of the PAC's planned probe into the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI).
Controversy surrounding the project erupted after it was revealed that the male dorm, which was destroyed during a fire in January, was not insured as required by the Ministry of Works, prior to the mobilization of contract funds.
Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis initially said the contractor, Audley Hanna, had everything needed to complete the project, including all-risk insurance.
However, he later admitted that Hanna only presented a quote from a local insurance company, never actually paying any premiums. Attempts to discover if any other buildings under the BAMSI project lacked insurance before the fire have been resisted by government.
Parliament's budget may not allow for hearings into this issue, but the government should nevertheless step in and make up the shortfall, even if this means diverting funds from less important commitments.
The BAMSI controversy goes to the heart of many problems we face as a nation today, including the very domestic factors that have contributed to our fiscal shortcomings in the first place. These include: a gross lack of oversight, transparency and accountability on the part of government; negligence or incompetence in the execution of public projects by contractors, and relationships between contractors and governing politicians of sufficient closeness to raise concerns about possible conflicts of interest.
In seeking to bring about public hearings into this matter, the FNM is taking the right approach. The opposition can only do the Bahamian people a service by forcing open debate on this and a host of similar cases - for example the Small Home Repairs (SHR) project, which a recent auditor general's report called in to troubling question on a number of levels.
At the end of the day, responsible fiscal management is about getting value for money spent. The public airing of many areas of governance kept secret in The Bahamas for decades - to the detriment of the majority of citizens - is a good way of ensuring a meaningful "bang" for our buck.
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April 20, 2015
After a 10-year-long wait, 18 stenographers are still waiting on promotions.
Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU) President John Pinder said, "It is my information that there was some hold up regarding the new career path. A number of them have been approved and since the finances are approved it should all move forward..."
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April 20, 2015
The Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) ratified a 28-member team, 15 women and 13 men, to represent the country at the IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2015, and whilst a few notable names are absent, Head Coach Rupert Gardiner is confident that the members selected will turn in some exceptional performances on the track.
The second International Association of Athletics Federations' (IAAF) World Relays is now just 12 days away, May 2 and 3 at the 15,000-seat Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, and Team Bahamas was ratified after a selection meeting late last night. Today is the deadline for entries for the global meet.
The numbers for Team Bahamas are slightly up from a year ago, 28 compared to 25, and once again, The Bahamas will compete in all of the sprint relays - the men and women's 4x100 meters (m), 4x200m and 4x400m relay events.
The team members are: Adanaca Brown (Junior), Brianne Bethel (Junior), Keianna Albury (Junior), V'Alonee Robinson, Tayla Carter and Krystal Bodie for the women's 4x100m; Brown, Bethel, Anthonique Strachan, Sheniqua Ferguson, Shaunae Miller and Lanece Clarke for the women's 4x200m; D'Nia Freeman (Junior), Shaquania Dorsett (Junior), Clarke, Bianca Farrington, Christine Amertil and Katrina Seymour for the women's 4x400m; Javan Martin (Junior), Alfred Higgs, Shane Jones, Deneko Brown, Trevorvano Mackey and Blake Bartlett for the men's 4x100m; Martin, Higgs, Brown, Bartlett, Mackey and Andretti Bain for the men's 4x200m; and finally Steven Gardiner, Michael Mathieu, LaToy Williams, Christopher Brown, Ramon Miller and Alonzo Russell for the men's 4x400m. The coaches for the team are Rupert Gardiner, Shaun Miller and Fritz Grant, and the management team consists of Kim Hanna and former quarter-miler Nathaniel McKinney.
Notably missing off the squad this year is "Golden Knight" Demetrius Pinder, a member of The Bahamas' 4x400m winning squad at the London Olympic Games, and the three fastest Bahamians ever, Derrick Atkins, Shavez Hart and Warren Fraser. Also missing are Adrian Griffith and Tynia Gaither who are two top notch performers for The Bahamas, but back in action is former World Youth and World Junior Champion Shaunae Miller who was injured last year, and who just ran a world-leading time of 22.50 seconds in the 200m on Saturday.
"The BAAA made a decision to go with top times this year, and we as coaches support that," said Head Coach Gardiner. "Overall, we're very excited. When you look at the team a year ago, and then add a Shaunae Miller, we feel very good about our chances to do well in a number of the races. I think in the ladies 4x200m in particular, we have a great shot of getting a medal. Also, we are always strong in the men's 4x400m, and with the addition of Steven Gardiner, we feel very good about our chances. I think we have a very good shot of upsetting the United States in the men's 4x400m," he added.
A number of the athletes left off the list, including "Golden Knight" Demetrius Pinder would not have ran for the year. Also, collegiate athletes such as Hart and Gaither have school commitments.
"Overall, the team is very balanced. We have high school, college and professional athletes," said Gardiner. "The schedule really won't permit the athletes to do more than two events, but with the legs that we have, it is a very good team all around. The competition should be much stiffer than a year ago, but we're ready for the challenge," he added.
With the world's fastest man, Jamaican Usain Bolt, confirming his attendance to the world relays this year, ticket sales have skyrocketed. Tickets for the event are still available, but are disappearing rapidly. They can be obtained online at www.bahamasworldrelays.org or at the box office at the national stadium from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
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April 20, 2015
The B&B Galaxy Pumpers out of Grand Bahama have earned the right to be called the best basketball team in the country.
After trailing for a significant portion of the game, the Pumpers came all the way back on Saturday night to knock off the PJ's Stingers, 85-84, in the championship game of the Bahamas Basketball Federation's (BBF)/BTC Bernard "Bunny" Levarity National Tournament, which was held in Bimini.
Grand Bahamian Tamasio Dames was named as the game's Most Valuable Player (MVP). He finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists on 7-for-12 shooting from the field. Amado Hepburn scored 26 for the Pumpers, Luciano Bartlett chipped in with 13 points and seven rebounds, and Jabar Lightbourne finished with 11 points and 17 rebounds.
In the game, the Stingers jumped out to an early 25-22 lead at the end of the first quarter, and extended it to 47-36 at the half. In the third quarter, the Stingers built the lead to almost 20 points. They appeared to have the game under control, but things unraveled for them in the fourth. The Pumpers turned up the dial on both ends of the floor and managed to outscore the Stingers, 29-12, in the final frame to steal the victory.
Able Joseph led the way with 26 for the Stingers in the loss. Both Daniel Bullard and Kendrick Curry finished with 14 points, and Vernon Stubbs chipped in with nine points and four rebounds.
The Pumpers managed to win the game despite shooting just 37 percent from the field, compared to 41 by the Stingers. The Stingers also finished with more assists, bench points, blocks and fast break points. However, it wasn't enough as the Pumpers prevailed.
It was the second time that the two teams played each other in the tournament. The Pumpers won the first game as well, 75-70. Amado Hepburn finished that game with 34 points and four rebounds for the Pumpers.
In division two action, the Coca-Cola Saints out of Grand Bahama crushed Bimini, 80-35, to capture that title. Keno Russell finished with a game-high 18 points for the Saints. Denero Seide added 14 and Petro Williams finished with 12. Kaane Pritchard led Bimini with nine.
The BBF also held its election of officers over the weekend in Bimini. Charles "Softly" Robins was returned as president, and Mario Bowleg was returned as 1st vice president. Also elected were Freddie Brown (2nd vice president), Keith Smith (3rd vice president), Simone Beneby (treasurer), Clifford Rahming (secretary general), Anastacia Sands-Moultrie (assistant secretary general), Eugene Horton (public relations officer), and Steven Brown, Alsworth "Whitey" Pickstock and Rodney Wilson as league officers.
The elected persons will serve for the next four years.
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April 20, 2015
The St. Augustine's College (SAC) Big Red Machine emerged as the overall winner of the Bahamas High School All-Star Relays, which was held over the weekend at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
SAC finished the two-day event with the most points overall, followed by St. John's College in second and Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS) track and field champions Queen's College (QC) in third.
The meet event served as a test event for the upcoming IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2015, and also as a qualifier for the high school segment of the world relays, where the top eight teams in the 4x100 meters (m), 4x200m and 4x400m relay events will compete in the school segment on the second day of the world relays. On the first day of the world relays, the junior segment will feature the "One Island, One Lane" competition in which the major islands of The Bahamas will be represented. The junior segment of the world relays will get underway at 5 p.m. on May 2 and 3.
This past weekend, Friday's session consisted mostly of preliminary races with just two finals, the boys' 4x100m and the girls' 4x200m events.
Tabernacle Baptist won the boys' 4x100m in a time of 40.97 seconds, while St. John's won the girls' 4x200m with a time of 1:40.55.
On Saturday, the Big Red Machine turned up the dial, winning five of the six 'A' relays - the boys' 1,600m sprint medley, the girls' 4x100m, the girls' 4x400m, the girls' 800m sprint medley and the boys' 4x400m. St. John's pulled out the other victory, in the boys' 4x200m.
Bahamas Association of Certified Officials (BACO) President Ralph McKinney said that the relays were good for showcasing the local high school talent. He feels that the athletes pushed hard at the test event to earn their spots on the big stage.
"All of the athletes who were out here, they're competing for their schools in order to be here on May 3rd," said McKinney. "They really put out a good effort today and it should make for a good show during the junior segment of the world relays."
Before the start of the relays, Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations' (BAAA) President Mike Sands also spoke on the importance of recognizing the country's younger athletes at the relays.
"We are looking forward to these rivalries that are developing at the high school level," he said. "We want to give our up and coming athletes the recognition they deserve."
The relays also featured individual 100m, 200m and 400m races for elite athletes, as a number of them tried to make their cases for inclusion to The Bahamas' team for the world relays.
Ahead of the high school relays this past weekend, a motorcade and pep rally was held for the young athletes, and members of this year's CARIFTA track and field and swimming teams.
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April 19, 2015
With the IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2015 having such a global appeal, there is always the threat of terrorism looming. With that in mind, the event's security team has heightened its protective measures weeks ahead of the grand athletics meet.
The second International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays is now less than two weeks away, and security forces in and around the host venue, Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, are taking no chances. More personnel have been deployed to various areas, additional fencing has been erected in and around the stadium, security forces have been beefed up at the ports of entry into the country, the prohibited items list has been increased from a year ago, and patrons of the event will have to go through a number of checkpoints prior to entering the stadium - just to name a few of the protective measures in place.
Leading up to the event, security forces are quite visible in and around the perimeter of the stadium, and on the actual days of the event, their borders will be extended to a two-mile radius of the stadium. Security forces are inclusive of police and defense force officers, as well as personnel from private security firms and the fire department.
Senior Director for Security James Carey said that it is vital that they protect the patrons of this event, athletes, coaches and officials, VIPs, and locals and visitors alike.
"This is a global event, and here in The Bahamas we have to meet the IAAF standards as it relates to securing the premises and ensuring the safety of everyone involved," said Carey. "The security has to be at an extremely high level. I'm honored that the IAAF has considered using the security plan that was in place for last year's event. We've tested it at events like the high school nationals. What we're looking for, really, is any unsettling behavior. We were able to seize a knife from a student at the high school nationals, and acting on information, police were able to seize a gun from a young man. We're making amendments where need be, but overall, we are very satisfied with the measures that we have in place."
Carey, a former assistant commissioner of police, has worked a number of major events at the national stadium, including the CARIFTA Games two years ago and the inaugural world relays last year. He has been hired on a contractual basis to provide the security plan for the IAAF/BTC World Relays. This year, the security measures have been in place since late January - at the same time additional fencing was erected in and around the new and old Thomas A. Robinson stadiums.
This past weekend, Carey and his team were able to test the measures that they have in place with the staging of the Bahamas High School All-Star Relays - the test event for the IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2015. The world relays is set for May 2 and 3 at the stadium. Over 1,000 athletes, coaches and officials from about 50 countries are expected to be here for the grand event.
"We have to be careful so as not to allow persons wishing to meet the athletes to go into restricted areas. That is of utmost concern to us," said Carey. "As you can see, this area in and around the stadium is fully protected. On the outer levels, there will be patrols up to a two-mile radius looking for potential threats. On the days of competition, officers will be deployed at strategic points. If you don't need to come in the area of the stadium, you will be diverted. It's all a part of our stringent traffic control this year. The perimeter of both stadiums is already completely fenced and heavily guarded. We realize that there is going to be about 20,000 persons in and around the stadium each day, but we expect a smooth process based on the security measures that we have in place. Every single person entering the stadium will be screened and fully checked. Also, we have developed an evacuation plan in case of a fire or any other catastrophe. In the parking lot areas, we will be on guard for criminal activity, such as car theft and damage to vehicles. The parking lots will be fully manned," he added.
According to Carey, the stadium area is divided into 10 zones, and there will be four points of entry into the new stadium for the world relays. Carey said that there will be 400-plus officers in and around the stadium alone. Also, he said that there will be strict security measures in place at the athletes village and the other hotels where officials and members of the IAAF family are housed. Those security measures will be in place on a 24-hour basis during the world relays.
"There will be patrols in and around the athletes village and the other hotels," said Carey. "We expect that the police will be fully armed, but that is a decision that rests with Leon Bethel, the senior assistant commissioner of police. He is ultimately responsible for security, and we expect that he will have his officers in place."
Carey retired in 2009 from the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF). His assistant for this event, Superintendent of Police Kevin Rolle, said that the safety of Bahamians and guests is of utmost importance to the security team and the Local Organizing Committee of the world relays (LOC).
"When you look at the threats that are going on around the country, and indeed the world, it's very important that we pay special attention to the security of these persons coming in for the world relays, and our own Bahamian people who will be attending," said Rolle. "Security checkpoints will be fully manned. Officers have been trained for high-level events like this one. It's not a difficult process. Everything is falling in place as it relates to the security measures for this event, and because of that, it will be very difficult for anyone to slip through the cracks. There is a very slim chance, almost impossible, for anyone to enter the stadium undetected. With the help of all the agencies that will be involved, I think that we will put out a good show for Bahamians and guests alike, and ensure that everyone is safe."
The prohibited items list for this event has increased from a year ago. Items such as bottled water; weapons of any kind (knives, firearms, pocket knives, etc.); video recording equipment; narcotics; lighters; matches; laser lights and pointers; strollers; umbrellas; poles; pepper spray; containers of any kind (coolers of any size, backpacks, bottles, cans including aerosol); smoking paraphernalia; or any other items deemed dangerous or inappropriate, will not be permitted.
Items such as clear plastic bottles of a one-gallon size containing food, small hand bags, small stadium cushions, small cameras without a case and medical items, will be permitted according to the acceptable items list.
The junior segment of the IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2015 will get underway at 5 p.m. on both days of competition, and the main show will commence at 7 p.m. each day.
Tickets for the event are still available, but are disappearing rapidly. Tickets can be obtained online at www.bahamasworldrelays.org or at the box office at the national stadium from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
There are now just 12 days remaining until the biggest sports spectacle to ever hit these shores makes a return to The Bahamas.
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April 19, 2015
Auditor General Terrance Bastian has one simple statement in response to the barrage of attacks fired his way after The Nassau Guardian revealed details of his report into the Urban Renewal Programme last week.
"I have never had the opportunity to write my opinions," Bastian told National Review.
"I only report the facts that we find during our audit.
"That's what we look forward to, reporting the facts and not our personal opinions."
Understandably, Bastian was careful not to get into a political fight with the co-chairs of the Urban Renewal Commission, Cynthia "Mother" Pratt and Algernon Allen, who put on a disgraceful and stunning display at a press conference that was broadcast live on ZNS radio last Tuesday.
Pratt, who left public life in 2012 with a wonderful legacy in place, managed to do tremendous damage to that legacy in a single swipe.
Her response to the auditor general's report was both shameful and illogical. It was silly and it was immature.
In giving her emotionally-charged response to the findings, Pratt very bizarrely suggested his report was an attack on the poor and on her own integrity and that of Allen.
"At this point in our lives do you think we are about to get into any skullduggery? Absolutely not," she said.
"I wasn't a young thief, so I sure won't be an old one. Here we come with this report as though we, all of us in here, are criminals. That is the impression that you are giving out there."
She then said Urban Renewal is being used as a political football and suggested the auditor general did not understand the philosophy of Urban Renewal.
"They will do anything to destroy Urban Renewal because it is touching the lives of the poor," Pratt charged.
"Why are we looking at little things? There are some honest people left in this Bahamas, you know."
Among other findings, the auditor general determined that 11 contractors were paid $171,000 as part of the Small Home Repairs (SHR) Programme for work that was not completed or never done.
If Pratt and Allen view that conclusion as a "little thing" then they are likely ill-suited for the positions they hold. These are paid positions, we add.
While saying on the one hand that they were not mounting an attack on the auditor general, a constitutional position, Allen charged that the auditor general's report was "ignorant, ill-advised and signals a clear abdication" of his responsibility to "pursue truth".
Pratt and Allen reminded us of a major problem that exists with those in the political directorate who lead our country. This strong resistance to accountability is a reflection of bad governance.
It is a pity they have adopted the same means of operating.
The auditor general's report was not an attack on Pratt and it was not an attack on Allen. No one has called them thieves.
The report was an unemotional, fact-based assessment of the Urban Renewal Programme.
We do not doubt that the co-chairs have a genuine commitment to help the poor. That is not the issue here.
Pratt and Allen are also refusing to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is probing Urban Renewal.
Instead of appearing before the PAC to answer questions, they have listed several reasons why they will not appear. They claim the process being engaged in by the committee is "inappropriate and illegal".
In fact, they said in a letter addressed to PAC Secretary David Forbes they would only appear before the committee if the "purported" audit on Urban Renewal completed by the auditor general is tabled in the House of Assembly.
After complaining that the auditor general did not interview them before completing his report, they are now running from inquiries being made by the Public Accounts Committee.
If Pratt and Allen have nothing to hide then they should have no problem appearing.
Failing to account
The auditor general has concluded that the Small Home Repairs Programme lacks accountability, transparency and due diligence in execution, management and quality of work done.
In case Pratt and Allen missed it, no one is suggesting throwing out the baby with the bath water, and no one is suggesting that the Urban Renewal Programme is a bad idea and should be dismantled.
What increasing numbers of sensible Bahamians are demanding is that our officials are held to account for the expenditure of our scarce public resources.
The co-chairs' reaction to the report is not unlike the response we have gotten from officials in government on a variety of issues, among them contracts associated with the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI).
Pratt and Allen missed the point of the auditor general's report in the same way Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis missed the point last month in the face of demands for more accountability on the award and administering of contracts associated with the North Andros project.
Instead of providing a complete accounting of the BAMSI contract, Davis arrogantly suggested the reason for the firestorm surrounding BAMSI had more to do with the opposition being against the idea of food sustainability.
In this instance, the appropriate response to the findings of the auditor general's report should not be to launch an attack on Bastian and his fine team of professionals.
Prime Minister Perry Christie once told us that the Urban Renewal Programme will be his legacy.
No well-meaning Bahamian would likely slam the aims of the program.
Certainly, the auditor general did not do that. It is not his role.
It is unfortunate that Pratt and Allen took the auditor general's findings so personally and sought to discredit those findings.
This is the same auditor general that Christie told National Review earlier this year he would ask to conduct an audit into the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) after Managing Director Herbert Brown took issue with the findings of a forensic accounting report completed over a year ago by UHY Bain and Associates.
This government should make up its mind whether it trusts the Office of the Auditor General to operate professionally and with integrity.
Addressing the Organization of American States on our government's anti-corruption measures in Washington, D.C., last month, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez highlighted various oversight bodies that are in place to guard against corruption.
Topping his list was the Office of the Auditor General, which is responsible for financial audits of all government ministries, departments, agencies and corporations.
Gomez said, the "attainment of values such as morality, trust and ethics in government involves the integrated effort of the entire society and its constituent elements and institutions - legislative, executive, political, judicial, religious and civil - all engaging with each other to ensure transparency, accountability, and good governance."
Likewise, in his anti-corruption speech in the Cayman Islands last March, Christie pointed to a tight domestic framework to guard against corruption.
He pointed to constitutional provisions which establish and empower the Office of the Auditor General as the supreme audit institution.
Indeed, the auditor general plays a critical role in ensuring transparency.
The current auditor general, Terrance Bastian, has served in that position since 2001.
He is well qualified.
Bastian worked in the internal audit department of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome for five years.
He is the first chairman of the CARICOM Audit Committee and represents Caribbean auditors general on the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions.
He also worked with the external audit committee of the Organization of American States for four years.
His multiple reports over the years have been used by politicians to raise the alarm on what sitting administrations are and are not doing.
But the role of the auditor general himself is non-political.
Critical to achieving transparency is reporting, and reporting on time.
After the Pratt and Allen press conference, we wondered whether the prime minister backed his Urban Renewal Commission co-chairs in their response to the report.
Christie did not speak to this issue publicly, but Davis, who has ministerial responsibility for Urban Renewal, did.
Davis' response was also unfortunate, but not surprising given his record of making ill-considered public statements.
"The commission is set up for the purpose of attempting to [separate] things political and apolitical," he said.
"That is why [it was] set up. They have a right to defend what may appear to be an attack on their own integrity."
Also downplaying the auditor general's report was Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell, who addressed the matter in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.
"It was a sample," he said, of the report.
"Not every audit covers everything. All I am saying is, whether it is a day or whether it covers a year, the fact is the auditor general shows up, he looks at particular things, and he makes a report at what he finds when he shows up on those days that he is there."
It was refreshing to finally hear a sensible and mature response, which came from Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis.
When questioned by The Nassau Guardian about the report, Halkitis said the government intends to "dispassionately" examine it and address those weaknesses identified in the program.
With debate over Urban Renewal and the auditor general's findings continuing, the prime minister should also add his voice.
Several of his ministers have been split in the tone of their response.
We hope that, like Halkitis, Christie would view this as an opportunity to address the weaknesses that have been identified.
Attacking the auditor general is unhelpful and it could be harmful to the fulfillment of the government's stated commitment to transparency and accountability.
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April 19, 2015
More than a year after receiving a report from independent consultants that concluded that residents who live near the Rubis gas station on Robinson Road and people who work in adjacent buildings were exposed to chemicals that could create health risks, the government suppressed that report. The report was completed on February 20, 2014.
As area residents looked on in apparent shock during a town meeting at Holy Cross Anglican Church Hall on Thursday night, Director of the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission Philip Weech indicated the agency did not release the report because it did not have the approval of the Office of the Attorney General to do so.
"Once reports of this nature are provided to us, we provide the information to the responsible line ministry; we report to the Ministry of the Environment," Weech explained.
"We were charged by the Ministry of the Environment to undertake this work. We discharged that responsibility and we're now in the public advising, allowing you to know what's taking place.
"A decision to release the report is one that has to be gotten from government."
Answers to why it took more than a year to alert residents on the findings of the Black & Veatch report were not immediately available.
Asked over the weekend why it took more than a year to make the Black & Veatch report public given the alarms it raised about the likely risks to public health, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson responded: "I can confirm advice to me that the Black and Veatch Report has been released; the appropriate government agencies immediately became involved; members of the community directly impacted were aware of the leaks and steps being taken; the wider community had been advised; remediation is ongoing and meets international standards, and community consultation will continue."
BEST finally released the report on Friday, a day after residents and business people expressed bitter disapproval over the suppression of the document.
Officials also outlined the main findings and the scope of their work at the town meeting.
Romauld Ferreira, an ecologist and environmental attorney who attended the town meeting, said he was absolutely stunned by the suppression of information in the face of reported risks to public health.
"I think it's absolutely shocking that they would withhold such information, particularly in light of the fact that the report shows all of the increased risks and dangers to human life," said Ferreira in an interview with National Review on the weekend.
After speaking with public health officials, Black & Veatch said in its report the Ministry of Health is concerned with public health issues.
"The ministry has not received any information or findings associated with the release at the Rubis Robinson Road facility," the report says.
"The ministry is not pleased with the lack of communication regarding the release at [Rubis]."
The consultants concluded that residents and workers at the nearby Cable Bahamas buildings and occupants and visitors to the commercial buildings on the north side of the road "were potentially exposed to chemicals as a result of the Rubis [gasoline] release" in late 2012, early 2013.
Weech said Rubis reported the fuel release on January 19, 2013.
"Apparently, as the fuel dispenser was engaged, there was a corrosion on the pipe and fuel was being released," he said.
On February 8, 2013, the company closed the station.
The report states that indoor air samples for chemical analysis were collected by Cable Bahamas' contractor in late January and early February 2013 from three locations inside the customer service and retail building, as well as outside of the north end of the building.
"Benzene was detected in all building air samples at concentrations exceeding the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) non-residential screening level," the report notes.
"Three of the five ambient air samples also exceeded the screening level. This suggests that occupants in the building before it was evacuated were exposed to concentrations of benzene exceeding an acceptable exposure level."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, benzene is a chemical that is a colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odor and is highly flammable.
The Department of Health and Human Services of the U.S. (DHHS) has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans.
Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs.
The report states, "To determine overall risk, additional factors need to be considered including length and duration of exposure.
"Cable Bahamas Limited stated that the building was evacuated the same day that petroleum odors were first observed. However, it is possible that gasoline vapors were present in the building before they were perceived by occupants of the building."
It added, "Considering that the leak may have occurred as early as November 25, and that although it would not be expected that free product (gasoline) or groundwater impacts would be immediately present in the area of the customer service and retail building, it is possible that gasoline vapors were entering the building before any odor was noted."
As it relates to residential exposure, the report states the greatest potential for exposure were in the two residential properties located north of the Rubis facility on the north side of Robinson Road because exposure to chemicals is possible through multiple pathways.
Through interviews with the residents, one family was directly exposed to site-related contamination by January 10, 2013 from using impacted groundwater from its private well, the report notes.
It added that there is also a potential for site-related chemicals to migrate into the residences though vapor intrusion.
The report also concludes that residents were exposed to chemicals in groundwater and vapors at concentrations that could pose a health risk.
The report says while planned remedial actions were appropriate to address groundwater contamination, the time of Rubis' response to assessing off-site impacts could have been more expedited.
The government should now explain why more than a year after the findings in the Black & Veatch report, it failed to release the report to make members of the public aware that there had been potential risks to their health.
Some residents and others who have ties to the community reacted angrily to the authorities' failure to provide information in a more timely basis.
It is understood why.
"It was inhumane to have someone exposed to that for that period of time. It is unconscionable," said Dave Smith, whose family operates a business in the area.
"So while I am here listening and finding out all of the protocols and who informs who and all of that, really, that is unimportant. What is important is who is empowered to compel somebody to do something and to do it quickly."
For more than two years, residents have been in the dark on this issue.
Even Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald, who is the minister of education, science and technology, admitted that he too has been in the dark as it relates to the impact of the contamination on his constituents.
"I have been of course working with the constituents at an early stage trying to essentially meet with Rubis and I've tried that on a couple of occasions," Fitzgerald told National Review after the town meeting.
"I am happy now that all of the facts are coming out with regard to the findings and some of the residents have already decided to take legal action, and I can say that I am not satisfied with the way that Rubis has been dealing with the constituents who have been affected by this."
Black & Veatch prepared the report for BEST to provide an overall assessment of the unleaded gasoline release that occurred at Rubis in late 2012/early 2013.
Explaining the need for expertise beyond what exists in the government's structure, that is, an independent consultant, Weech said, "We had a combination of vapor in the soil as well as product that had percolated all the way to the bottom.
"We also recognized from the reports that had been provided that there was a very high probability of migration of the oil product and the fumes beyond the service station itself.
"We also recognized from the studies that were done and from the exchanges that had taken place that there was a high potential of health implications for exposure, both to the fuel in water and from the vapors emanating from it.
"We also know from the information that had been collected at the time that the fuel spill extended to the north, the east and the west of the property impacting both commercial interests and residents, and we concluded from the work that we had done that the damage to the environment was evident and long-term remediation would be required."
Barbara Butler, an environmental engineer with Black & Veatch, noted that beginning in 2013 after the spill was discovered, Rubis began the assessment and clean up activities concurrently when the gas fumes in the adjacent building caused an evacuation.
Officials of BEST said Rubis was invited to send a representative to the town meeting, but no one from Rubis was present to explain the company's actions after the gasoline release, which has created great consternation amongst area residents and business people, some of whom said they cannot get insurance on their buildings due to the contamination.
After being pressed by Ferreira, Dwayne Curtis, assistant director at the Department of Environmental Health Services, admitted that the department allowed Rubis to reopen without a certificate of approval as required by law.
Curtis acknowledged that the failure to issue the certificate amounted to a dereliction of duty.
He said, however, the department was satisfied that the company had addressed all the relevant issues required to reopen.
Curtis said Rubis was allowed to reopen because "it made no sense to prohibit them from operating just because there is a long-term remediation going on".
"We have other entities in similar situations," Curtis said.
"For example, if we were to decide to shut down every institution, every organization that has a spill until it's pristine, a lot of places would shut down."
He said the area around Rubis will never be pristine again.
"What you can do is get it down to a sufficiently low level so that there is minimal impact or minimal risk," Curtis said.
"But it will never be pristine again."
Several months after the spill, Rubis confirmed to The Nassau Guardian that it had taken significant steps to reduce the contamination. Rubis reportedly absorbed the cost for several dozen Robinson Road and Old Trail Road residents to be connected to the Water and Sewerage Corporation's network.
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April 19, 2015
There are some worrying signals coming from Baha Mar, and we should all take note.
As the country waits for the mega Cable Beach development to open its doors, a harsh tone has emerged from a clearly frustrated Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian.
It has spilled into the public domain with likely implications for Baha Mar's relations with the government and with its Chinese partners.
No doubt, this is creating jitters among those in government and it is also creating concerns in the wider community that is waiting for Baha Mar to take off.
With the economy still in desperate need of revitalization seven years after the global financial crisis, a lot continues to ride on Baha Mar's success.
Speaking at the second annual Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation Conclave last week, Izmirlian expressed that the "discontent and concerns" surrounding the project are now felt across nearly all sectors of the country.
Obviously, the Baha Mar CEO has reached a breaking point in his dealings with government and in waiting for the Chinese builders to meet certain commitments to get the $3.5 billion development open.
Izmirlian's words were worrying on multiple levels.
"As Baha Mar has been developed, we have had to do so with less than ideal support and a less than best-in-class business climate, which are critical to The Bahamas' success," he said, adding that a number of promises important to the future of The Bahamas have not come to fruition.
"All of us must be concerned about the unfulfilled promise of improvement in the reliable supply of power and the reduced costs of power.
"We all should be concerned about the gap in necessary education and training programs that would allow workers to be better prepared for jobs, and we all should be concerned that the growth incentive commitments are not viewed as reliable."
The airing of Baha Mar's frustrations in this manner speaks to an obvious deterioration of relations between the investor and the government of The Bahamas.
We imagine the relations must be in a terrible state for Izmirlian to address them in such a public manner.
Many Bahamians are understandably disturbed by the tone of the Baha Mar CEO.
Where is the prime minister in all of this? We assume he must be making interventions in the face of these latest public statements by Izmirlian.
We think it is time for the prime minister to speak publicly to the issue of the delayed opening and report on the government's efforts to address the investor's concerns.
We are in need of assurance that confidence surrounding Baha Mar and its success is not threatened.
Izmirlian's comments came as we continued to question the status of the government's long promised deal for the reform of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation.
Reform of the energy sector in general is crucial to the national economy. High energy costs are among the most substantial burdens for business people, Baha Mar being no exception.
Small consumers too have grown tired of the wait. Three years into this administration it is time for action on energy reform.
This seems like an appropriate time for an explanation from Prime Minister Perry Christie in this regard.
We imagine that Izmirlian's lashing of the government would have been picked up in many circles, including among other investors in The Bahamas and prospective investors.
What impact are his words likely to have on the generation of more investments in The Bahamas?
Smart investors don't go in where there is substantial uncertainty.
If a major investor like Izmirlian is expressing doubt about the competency of the government to meet Baha Mar's needs, this could discourage future investments.
Christie has repeatedly pointed to the tremendous impact Baha Mar is projected to have on the economy. He has repeatedly touted Baha Mar as the centerpiece of economic revitalization.
In his speech last week, Izmirlian disabused the government of this notion that it alone will be an economic savior, however.
He said, "I continue to strongly believe that The Bahamas can successfully compete with the best tourism destinations in the world, and Baha Mar will prove that.
"But Baha Mar in and of itself is not The Bahamas and cannot solve all the ills of this country.
"I can assure you this: There are not that many Sarkis Izmirlians or Sol Kerzners out there who would be willing to invest in The Bahamas as we have."
That warning to the government was among the most startling aspects of Izmirlian's presentation, and reflected a level of frustration even deeper than originally thought.
Added to its delayed opening, its concerns with a lack of urgency on energy reform and troubles with doing business in The Bahamas, Baha Mar continues to lock horns with the government over costs associated with the rerouted West Bay Street and related roadwork.
The last we heard from the prime minister on this issue, the matter seemed bound for arbitration.
Izmirlian previously said he was unhappy with the way negotiations with the government were going in this regard.
More worrying though might be Baha Mar's public wrangling with China Construction America (Bahamas) Ltd.
Days before it was scheduled to open, Baha Mar said despite repeated assurances from the contractor that the resort would be able to open on March 27, "it has become clear that the contractor has not completed the work with an attention to detail consistent with Baha Mar standards of excellence".
As a result, the opening was delayed.
This is the second delay for Baha Mar. Undoubtedly, these delays have been costly.
It is unclear exactly when the property will open.
This is undoubtedly creating widespread tensions between Baha Mar and its Chinese partners.
A day after Baha Mar publicly blamed the delay on China Construction, the company responded to the criticism in a public statement of its own.
"The statements by the developer of the Baha Mar project laying blame upon CCA (Bahamas) for its decision to delay the announced opening of this project are wholly inappropriate and inconsistent with the history of the project," the company said.
In rejecting the blame and criticism by Baha Mar, the contractor pledged to deliver a resort of the highest standard.
"That said, CCA (Bahamas) will continue to perform its obligations in a professional manner and will deliver a quality resort in the earliest possible time," CCA Bahamas said.
"CCA (Bahamas) remains committed to constructing a resort that will bring pride to the Bahamian people."
We all should be concerned, not only about the delayed project, but about the growing public tensions that surround this project.
Baha Mar is billed by the government as the greatest hope for a rejuvenation of the country's economy in the near to medium term.
Definitive answers are needed regarding when the project will open, its marketing efforts and renewed projections and timelines for economic impact. We are also in need of signs that the bruised relations between Baha Mar and the government on the one hand, and between Baha Mar and its contractor on the other, are undergoing healing.
We expect that our government will take Izmirlian's concerns with a great degree of seriousness and make urgent attempts to reach mutually agreed positions to address them.
We have all watched Baha Mar rise from the ground after major setbacks that brought the project dangerously close to collapse.
It is in the country's interest for the project to overcome the hurdles that remain.
We are in no position to stomach another round of bad news as it relates to Baha Mar.
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April 19, 2015
There is no end to the eyebrow-raising, confusing comments we often get from our deputy prime minister, Philip Brave Davis.
The list is long.
Davis previously called into question the integrity of the fine professionals of the Department of Statistics when he said he had doubts over the figures that showed unemployment had risen, though he admitted he had not seen the department's report.
Last week, he missed an opportunity to give a reasonable response to the auditor general's report on the Urban Renewal Programme.
As opposed to pledging the government's commitment to correcting weaknesses, he sided with Urban Renewal Co-Chairs Cynthia "Mother" Pratt and Algernon Allen in their attack on the auditor general.
In the face of damning findings from the auditor general, he insisted the program is transparent.
Last July, after The Nassau Guardian revealed that Prime Minister Perry Christie had asked Renward Wells to resign as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Works, Davis told the media that he still needed to determine if Wells did anything wrong when he signed a letter of intent for a waste-to-energy project.
Davis' recent conflicting statements over an insurance controversy involving the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), and his failure to report fully on all the BAMSI contracts spoke poorly of his leadership of the Ministry of Works.
His latest blunder was revealed when he was asked to respond to the AmericasBarometer survey conducted by Vanderbilt University.
As we reported last week, the survey was a part of the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP).
The survey was financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
While Davis admitted that he had not seen the results of the survey, he said the government has reached out to the IDB to get an "understanding" of the survey.
We are not sure what the point of that would be.
Firstly, the IDB did not conduct the survey. But the DPM suggested the IDB has some explaining to do.
Davis said, "I am not certain the aim of the report as described by Candia [Dames] is the kind of conduct that you would expect from an international agency.
"And so, I know that efforts have been and contact has been made with the IDB to get an understanding of what has been put out there in the public domain."
We would imagine that IDB officials would be laughing silently at this statement.
Quite frankly, we were ourselves embarrassed by the deputy prime minister's comments.
If the government wants to understand the purpose of the AmericasBarometer survey and the highly-credible LAPOP, there is more than enough information provided by Vanderbilt with just a click of the mouse.
Why would the IDB need to explain its "conduct" over a scientific survey it financed?
On its website, the Latin American Public Opinion Project explains: "LAPOP is the premier academic institution carrying out surveys of public opinion in the Americas, with over 30 years of experience".
As a center for excellence in survey research, LAPOP uses "gold standard" approaches and innovative methods to carry out targeted national surveys; conduct impact evaluation studies, and produce reports on individual attitudes, evaluations and experiences.
The AmericasBarometer survey is the only scientifically rigorous comparative survey that covers 28 nations including all of North, Central, and South America, as well as a significant number of countries in the Caribbean. Each year it publishes dozens of high quality academic studies and policy-relevant papers.
According to the technical information that accompanies the results, the 2014 survey was conducted by Vanderbilt University with field work being carried out by Public Domain, a local market research and public opinion firm.
The project used a national probability sample design of voting-age adults, with a total of 3,429 people involved in face-to-face interviews.
The sample size is considered more than respectable for our population size.
Davis accused National Review of "misrepresenting" the results of the survey -- again, results he admits he has never seen.
"The headlines and the content of the story and some of the content appears to be inherently conflicting to me," he said.
"And on the face of it, it appears to me that is a clear misinterpretation of those figures."
When asked to provide specific conflicts in the article to validate his point, he refused.
He said the story published in National Review was "vague", and he too shall remain vague.
Davis said he was awaiting the completion of discussions with the IDB.
As we reported last week, the survey results reveal attitudes toward a wide variety of topics, from politics to the state of the economy to crime and many other areas in between.
Last Monday, we focused largely on the results to the political questions. We also included responses related to questions on the economy and crime.
For much of the week, we reported on the results, including respondents' attitudes toward the police, openly gay people running for office and same-sex marriages.
We noted in our National Review article on April 13 that more than 45 percent of the Bahamians surveyed said they would vote for a candidate or party different from the current administration if an election were held this week.
Another 24.5 percent said they would not vote at all.
And 27.2 percent said they would vote for an incumbent candidate or party.
We concluded that this is a clear indication that the governing party is losing steam.
We also reported the results to a question on Prime Minister Perry Christie's job performance.
The results showed that 9.5 percent viewed the prime minister's job performance as "very good" and 37.4 percent as "good".
The results showed that 9.6 percent viewed Christie's job performance as "very bad".
Another 11.3 percent viewed it as "bad".
Thirty-two point two percent said Christie's job performance was neither good nor bad, but "fair".
We pointed out that Christie could at least find comfort in these results, which show that 46.9 percent either think he is doing a good or a very good job.
We also noted that it should be extremely worrying that such a high percentage of people said they would reject the Progressive Liberal Party in an election.
Had we wanted to misrepresent the results, we could easily have chosen not to print the job performance results.
Last Monday, Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts said the survey results were good news for Christie and bad news for Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis.
We carried Roberts' response in a front page article the following day.
He claimed the "constant negative messaging from the usual suspects" is not having the kind of negative impact that these purveyors of gloom and doom had hoped for.
Following all of this, Davis came along once again without reviewing the results. He ended up adding to the mountain of ill-considered thoughts he has placed in the public domain over the years.
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April 19, 2015
You know, everything in life is in fact a choice. As a matter of fact, when I interviewed Dr. Myles Munroe for my Success Files series a few years ago, he stated the following "Everything in your life right now is as a result of the choices you have made".....Oh how absolutely true that is. Each and every day we all have a series of decisions to make which will determine the outcome of that particular day, and in the end our overall life.
Of course, once we finally understand this concept, that everything in life is choice, it means that we have to accept full responsibility for every aspect of our life, and thus stop blaming other people, events and circumstances for what is happening in our life. But D. Paul you may protest, no matter what I do, things just don't seem to work out as I envisioned they would. I'm just not content with my life right now.
Well then, you need to heed the advice given in today's short title and thus 'Choose To Be Content'. That's right, there are a whole lot of people who are very well off from a material perspective, and yet they are still discontented. On the other hand, I'm sure that we're all familiar with many people who have far less than we have; and yet every time we meet them they are smiling and happy, they appear to be extremely content.
But D. Paul, you just don't understand what I'm presently going through in my life right now. Perhaps I don't; however, I always keep in mind the words of one of my mentors Dr. Denis Waitley Author of many bestsellers including 'The Psychology of Winning', 'The Winner's Edge' and 'Being Your Best' to name a few. He said "It's not what happens to you in life that's important, it's how you React to what happens to you"......oh how true that is. So, in effect, everything in life is a choice. So My Friend, in conclusion, will you 'Choose To Be Content'? I do hope so for your sake.
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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April 19, 2015
The looming redundancies of 48 Envoy Air employees, due to take effect next month, are "a grave injustice", according to the airline workers union president, as the number of post-downsizing vacancies at the airline dwindles.
Envoy Air formerly operated as American Eagle.
Airport Airline and Allied Workers Union (AAAWU) President Nelerene Harding told Guardian Business that the number of jobs available once American Airlines resumes control of operations in Nassau had dropped substantially in the past week. Contrary to earlier estimates from the director of labor, an American Airlines representative confirmed that only 14 vacancies would be made available.
"The director of labor confirmed to me when he came out of the meeting that there were 12 positions that they would continue for British Airways and nine vacancies for American. Excluding that, they would've had 12 persons that would've opted to retire. Now, we're seeing that number decrease. That is a grave injustice," Harding said.
In an e-mail to Guardian Business, Laura Masvidal, American Airlines communications representative for Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America, confirmed that the airline would only offer 14 vacancies for the 48 Envoy employees affected by redundancies following American Airline's merger with US Airways.
"As part of its ongoing integration of airport operations following its merger with US Airways, effective May 1, 2015, American Airlines' operations in Nassau will be handled by American Airlines. The airline's operations are currently handled by Envoy.
"As a result of this change, 48 Envoy employees will be affected. All of the affected employees were given the opportunity to voluntarily apply for 14 vacant positions in American Airlines. Effective May 1, 2015, those 14 Envoy employees will be re-hired as American Airlines employees. All Envoy employees affected by this change can be considered as external hires for any open positions," read the statement.
Aside from the redundancies, Harding said that she had already appealed to the director and minister of labor to revisit the country's redundancy laws to prevent what she considers further exploitation of Bahamian employees by foreign companies.
Harding argued that the government gave foreign companies strong incentives with little penalty for redundancies under the current labor laws, stating: "The employer leaves with all of their profits, but for the employees, their years of service just means nothing at the end of the day."
As it stands, the Employment Act sets a 12-year limit on redundancy payments for both managerial and line staff. The law provides managerial staff with one month's salary for each year of employment up to 12 years, while line staff receive a month's salary for every two years of employment up to the 12-year limit upon redundancy.
"It is so sad to see," she said.
Masvidal's statement confirmed that the downsizing would not have an impact on the airline's number of routes into Nassau. The airline currently offers flights into Nassau, Marsh Harbour, Eleuthera, Freeport and Georgetown.
"We have a firm commitment to The Bahamas and its people and our objective is to work together to continue increasing passenger traffic to the islands. Through this process, American is adhering to all labor laws in the Bahamas," said Masvidal.
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April 19, 2015
Despite the best of intentions, several initiatives designed to stimulate family island economies could fail to deliver due to a lack of local direction and overly "Nassau-centric" management, according to Exuma Chamber of Commerce President Pedro Rolle.
Speaking at the National Conclave of Chambers of Commerce in The Bahamas last week, Rolle argued that "wonderful ideas" only went so far in the absence of local management, which had remained underutilized by the public and private sectors.
"The challenge is that you can't just come to a Family Island, have a little dialogue, then leave and think that it's going to be self-sustaining. Someone has to be on the ground to ensure that there is follow-up or someone to relate to on the ground.
"All of these programs, every single one they're
talking about, are too Nassau-centric. You come up with these wonderful, properly funded ideas but they can't be executed properly because on the ground level no one is there to walk you through and talk to the people everyday when they have challenges," Rolle said.
He highlighted the potential economic impact of an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) initiative and a Bahamas Geotourism Stewardship Council initiative. Both aim to better promote family island businesses and authentic activities through a strengthened web presence.
Although Rolle said that both projects had admirable goals, he believes that both initiatives would benefit from greater local management to ensure swift responses to island-specific concerns.
Rolle noted that the conclave was "indispensable" in bringing together the heads of respective family island chambers to address individual and widespread challenges facing family island economies. Despite Exuma's unique challenges, Rolle said that most Family Islands shared similar grievances, namely a lack of reliable airlift and long government reach in local affairs.
However, he believes that the lack of adequate local direction is not limited to such programs, accusing the central government of hindering family island economic growth by not divesting certain powers to local communities.
"The government seems to be committed to keeping the reins of authority. We continue to do the same thing the same way without getting any result. None of these things are going to succeed if they are not pushed and governed at the local level.
"If you want to see real growth and development in all of these various communities then empower the local people to do it and watch as it grows," he said.
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