Nassau Guardian Stories

Home is where the opportunity is

April 11, 2014

Q: I will be graduating from high school within the next four months. During the remaining time I will work on one of my ideas and create a business model.
Originally I had planned to move to Austin, Texas, but after talking with successful entrepreneurs, I've started to lean toward living at my parents' home and going to a local college to save money.
What would be better, in your opinion? Should I stay with my parents while I'm working on launching my business, or should I get out of the house and experience a different world?
- Konnor Kelley
A: Moving away from home is one of the most exciting and difficult milestones in a young person's life. It can be hard to leave the people you love, but at some point, you do have to get out there and learn to be independent. For an entrepreneur who is full of ideas like you are, choosing the right moment can involve some tradeoffs.
I started going to boarding school when I was young, but I have always been close to my parents and sisters. When I left school at age 16 to set up my first business, I moved into my friend Johnny Gems' basement, below the hustle and bustle of London's Edgware Road. It was dark, rather damp, extremely dirty - and we had a blast. Running our own business, Student Magazine, while relishing our first taste of independence was absolutely thrilling.
That said, Mum did keep an eye on us. She occasionally brought over baskets of food (we were always hungry) and made sure that we washed at least once a week. Fending for myself at an early age taught me a lot, but I never lost sight of how much my parents supported me, or of how important that support was.
These days my mum and I are close as ever, even though we live in different countries. Recently when she was doing a book signing in Washington (for "Mum's the Word: The High-Flying Adventures of Eve Branson"), I paid her a surprise visit. She didn't know that I was in town, so when I appeared at the front of the line, I gave her a real fright. It has been six decades - she should be used to my surprises by now!
If you are going to be ready to launch your business quite soon, living with your parents would provide some advantages. It is sensible for you to think of ways to save money, since cash flow problems kill most new businesses. You wouldn't need to pay rent, which might allow you to hire some much-needed help, starting you on the way to building your team. Your parents may also prove to be a good sounding board for your business plans. To this day I still rely on the Mum Test, where before you approach potential investors, you check to see if your own mum understands and likes your idea.
Even so, you do need to consider the benefits of moving away. Living in a hub like Austin, where you would be able to mingle with fellow entrepreneurs and other creative people, might inspire you in ways that you can't anticipate. It is no coincidence that communities of entrepreneurs in places like Austin, San Francisco, Berlin and London draw young people like yourself. When a lot of energetic, imaginative minds are gathered in one spot, great ideas emerge. And the nightlife is fun too!
One important thing to remember is that becoming an entrepreneur is a process. The overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs' attempts to launch their first businesses fail. And their second businesses. And their third. Once you have been through that process a few times - of dealing with disappointment, examining what went wrong and then relaunching your project by building on what you've learned - it's more likely that your company will take off. During those years, however, your hours may sometimes be long and you may not be much of a housemate, so you should keep your parents' needs in mind as you consider your options.
Whether you move away or not, I'm sure you'll find that your parents will always love you and support your decisions. Joan and I are very proud of our children, Holly and Sam, for standing on their own two feet, and happy that we have all remained so close.
o Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/richardbranson.

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Baha Mar Academy reaches out to 170 in Abaco

April 11, 2014

Baha Mar Academy representatives recently traveled to Abaco, reaching out to approximately 170 recent high school graduates and professionals on the first trip of several to the Family Islands that are scheduled over the coming months.
The audience met the team from Baha Mar which included Kristin Wells, director of the Baha Mar Academy; Vonya Ifill, Baha Mar Academy associate and representative for Rosewood at Baha Mar; Benjamin Sims, director of human resources for Mondrian at Baha Mar; Beth Cantor, roving director of human resources for Hyatt hotels (representing Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar), and Jarrel Hall, outreach associate and acting representative for the Baha Mar Casino & Hotel.
In addition to interviewing potential candidates for positions at Baha Mar, the team also provided information about career opportunities, the recruitment process and general expectations about belonging to the Baha Mar team.
"Our outreach to Bahamians throughout the entire country is another part of Baha Mar's ongoing recruitment and training efforts," said Paul Pusateri, chief operating officer at Baha Mar. "We are looking for people with an aptitude for hospitality who will be as committed as we are to building a world-class destination and transforming The Bahamas."
The Baha Mar Academy Family Island tour will also include visits to Grand Bahama, Bimini, Exuma, Eleuthera and Long Island.

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Three pilots on drug charges

April 11, 2014

The son of a senior official in the Office of the Attorney General was among three pilots remanded to prison yesterday on drug smuggling charges...

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Rolle: Don't expect wholesale change to tax reform plan

April 11, 2014

Despite uncertainty surrounding the implementation of value-added tax (VAT), Financial Secretary John Rolle said yesterday he does not expect a "wholesale change" from the current proposed tax model...

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Man gets 12 years in tourist robberies
Man gets 12 years in tourist robberies

April 11, 2014

A man pleaded guilty on Thursday to robbing two American visitors in their hotel rooms and was sentenced to 12 years in prison...

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Several shanty homes torn down in Pride Estates

April 11, 2014

Officials from the Ministry of Housing and Environment yesterday tore down a handful of shanty homes in the Pride Estates III area, which distressed some shantytown residents who said they were caught off guard by the action...

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Police notice drug smuggling 'trend' from Canada

April 11, 2014

Police have noticed a "unique" trend of drug smuggling from Canada to The Bahamas with a higher quality of marijuana, Superintendent Samuel Butler said yesterday.
"It's a growing trend," said Butler, officer-in-charge of the Drug Enforcement Unit.
"Late last year we had some sighting of it, and noticed one or two instances.
"It is relatively new to have it in the reverse where people are smuggling drugs from up there and coming into The Bahamas."
The Bahamas has traditionally been labeled a transit point for drug smugglers.
Butler said he did not have figures readily available on how many cases police have seen from Canada.
On Monday, police arrested two Bahamian pilots and a Canadian man in connection with a million-dollar drug bust at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).
According to police, officers confiscated 149 pounds of marijuana, 17.4 pounds of ecstasy pills and 2.6 pounds of hashish oil. The drugs are worth $1,050,000, police said.
"What was unique about this particular seizure also is the type of marijuana, what we call hydroponic marijuana, a real high quality marijuana and it's actually marketed at a very high price," Butler said.
"Certainly, marijuana is the contraband of choice. There is a demand for it despite our public education initiatives. We still see throughout the length and breadth of The Bahamas we're having high demand.
"We also have to pay attention to our visitors who continue to have a demand for these once they arrive to The Bahamas."
There have been several large drug busts across the country this year.
According to the U.S. Department of State's 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, The Bahamas remains a transit point for illegal drugs bound for the U.S. and other countries.
It noted that marijuana use among young people remains an area of concern.
The report stated that Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organizations continue to play a major role in the movement of cocaine into the country.

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Roberts unmoved by criticism over constitutional referendum

April 11, 2014

Another delay of the promised constitutional referendum would not be a life or death issue, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts said yesterday.
Roberts said he is confident the government will hold the referendum in this term and was unmoved by criticism over the issue.
He was responding to Free National Movement (FNM) Senator Carl Bethel who said the government lacks legislative focus and expressed disappointment that it may delay the referendum.
"Whenever the government schedules it, that's fine with me," said Roberts when contacted for comment.
"It's up to the government. It's not a life or death issue."
Chairman of the Constitutional Commission Sean McWeeney has said the government may have to delay the planned constitutional referendum on gender equality for a third time.
Roberts accused Bethel of engaging in a political tit for tat.
"Obviously the government he was a part of, until he got dumped, they were like a leaf in the wind," Roberts said. "They blew from left to right and what did they do?"
He said too many people are putting a negative spin on what the government is trying to do in the country.
Bethel, who is a member of the Constitutional Commission, said the government needs to get its act together on a number of issues.
He accused the government of "doing an extraordinary disservice to the Bahamian people".
Last October, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced the constitutional referendum would take place before the end of June 2014 after a public education campaign.
Christie said constitutional bills would be brought to Parliament before the end of 2013 and passed by February 2014.
The bills have not yet been introduced in Parliament and the public education campaign has not started.
McWeeney said the commission is expected to meet in the next few days to finalize the bills and present them to Cabinet.

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Two men arrested after guns seized

April 11, 2014

Officers seized several illegal firearms hidden among a shipment of assorted household items and appliances in Exuma, police said.
Superintendent Ken Strachan, head of the Firearms Tracing Unit, said the seizure took place this week, but he did not give a specific date.
Strachan said customs officers inspected a shipment that originated from the United States and found two rifles, two handguns and dozens of rounds of ammunition.
The shipment also reportedly contained popsicles and juice bottles.
"We are communicating and in collaboration with the customs department and we are awaiting further details," Strachan told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
"We do have a team of investigators conducting further inspections."
Two Bahamian men were arrested in connection with the seizure.
The men are expected to be charged with gun trafficking, although Strachan was unable to say when.
Asked whether he was surprised by the method used to smuggle the weapons into the country, Strachan said, "Nothing surprises me in law enforcement any longer."
The find is the latest in several significant gun seizures in recent days.
"We seized two weapons, an assault weapon and a pistol," Strachan said.
"In another incident, where visitors came to our shores, we recovered five weapons, three of which we took from [waters] off a harbor in New Providence.
"We had a dive team out for some five hours... and recovered three handguns.
"In addition to that we have taken into custody another foreign national who was duly placed before the court on a complaint related to a firearm that came into the country that was not cleared."
Strachan said with the assistance of customs and the defense force his department has also seized several high-powered weapons in the last few months.
He said over the last week police seized two AK-47s and a Mac-11.
Several assault rifles, handguns with extended clips and at least one firearm with a drum magazine were also seized recently.
Police said they confiscated more than 100 illegal firearms and more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition for the year.
In 2013, police said they seized 438 illegal firearms and 6,853 rounds of ammunition.

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Jamaican women arrested after cocaine seized

April 11, 2014

Two Jamaican women were arrested on Wednesday in separate incidents in connection with suspected cocaine, police said.
In the first incident, police said a woman, 51, was arrested around 1:30 p.m. in a hotel room in downtown Nassau after officers found 2.4 pounds of suspected cocaine.
Police said the drugs were worth $16,000.
According to authorities, the woman traveled from Panama earlier that day.
Drug Enforcement Unit officers also allegedly found $765.26 in her possession.
Police said another Jamaican woman, 30, was arrested at Lynden Pindling International Airport after officers found 2.4 pounds of suspected cocaine in her luggage.
Police said the woman also traveled from Panama around 1 p.m.
Officers also found $1,200 in her luggage, police reported.
Both women are expected to be charged with importation of dangerous drugs and possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply.
Police also reported yesterday that two Bahamian women and a man were arrested in Bimini in connection with 19 pounds of marijuana.
When officers searched a home in Bailey Town around 5 a.m. they found the drugs, which were worth $19,000, police said.
The women, 51 and 26, of Bailey Town, and the man, 43, of Thirsty Turtle, South Bimini, are expected to be charged with possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply.
On Monday night, police arrested two Bahamian pilots and a Canadian man in connection with 149 pounds of marijuana, 17.4 pounds of ecstasy pills and 2.6 pounds of hashish oil.
Police believe the drugs -- which were in four suitcases -- were smuggled into the country from Canada.
The drugs were worth over $1 million, according to police.
The men were charged yesterday.

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Keeping a regressive ideology alive

April 11, 2014

Dear Editor,
After reading PLP MP and Labour Minister Shane Gibson's untimely response to a newspaper reporter concerning the FNM's allegations of imminent job cuts at BTC, the Whistleblower has gained a more thorough understanding of why The Bahamas is far behind other nations which are categorized as First World and even regional nations that are Third World.
Politicians such as Gibson who are stuck in an ideological rut are mainly responsible for this 21st century country with a political atmosphere resembling that of the Dark Ages. Gibson, rather than answering a simple question with either a yes or no, decided to point to the FNM and the situation it met in place with BaTelCo after it came to power in August 1992. The Whistleblower was astounded to learn from Gibson that BaTelCo had a staff totaling 2,400.
In a tiny nation with a population of about 300,000, with a soiled reputation in the international community and teetering on the precipice of financial ruin due to mismanagement by the PLP government, the Whistleblower is at a loss for words after reading that the Pindling administration had hired all those people to work for one single government-run company.
Obviously Gibson sees nothing wrong with his political forebears bloating the corporation. And he obviously believes that his PLP supporters would agree with him. But anyone who agrees with this view is not only outdated but also regressive.
The Whistleblower simply cannot fathom the thought of 2,400 persons working at BTC. That number is beyond mind blogging. To say that the corporation's staff was grossly bloated would be a major understatement.
What the Whistleblower finds deeply troubling is that he made the statement as if it were the most normal thing in the world to say in the year 2014. Gibson decided to play a math game with the journalist by pointing out that BTC today has in its employment 700 workers, down from the 2,400 it had in 1992 when the FNM took office. He essentially blamed the FNM for 1,700 job cuts at the corporation in the past 22 years.
The Whistleblower believes that the PLP under Pindling went on hiring binges throughout the 70s and 80s in order to stay in power. It worked for 25 years. In most cases getting a soft government job back then had nothing to do with skills, education, experience or talent.
The word meritocracy was not in the PLP's lexicon. Hiring was mostly based on political patronage. That is why the civil service was so inept and inefficient.
In all probability, over 2,300 of the 2,400 workers the FNM met in place at BaTelCo were PLPs. And even if the Whistleblower's estimation is wrong, no one can deny with a straight face that PLPs were disproportionately staffed at BaTelCo compared to FNMs.
BEC, the Water and Sewerage Corporation, ZNS, the government-owned hotels, Bahamasair and all of the other government departments and agencies were mainly staffed with PLPs. That was the PLP's political strategy. They hired PLPs who along with their dependents, would be forever beholden to the party.
This strategy greatly demoralized thousands of Bahamians who didn't support Pindling. It also nearly bankrupted the treasury. This was the dilemma Hubert Ingraham inherited from Pindling in 1992.
The Whistleblower finds no joy in seeing people lose their jobs, especially the 1,700 BTC workers sent home since 1992. But how does a government keep 2,400 workers employed at a corporation the size of BTC?
And please keep in mind that the only reason BaTelCo made a fair profit was because it had the monopoly. It had no competition.
Gibson's brand of regressive, archaic, outdated and anachronistic politics was the main reason all of the government corporations were in such a shoddy state when Ingraham took office in 1992.
Yet he wants to allude to that era as if it was productive. This country will continue lagging behind in its Third World status so long as we the Bahamian people continue to vote for folks such as Gibson.
- The Whistleblower

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The Critical Care Block and the ongoing game of excuses
The Critical Care Block and the ongoing game of excuses

April 11, 2014

If a government is repeatedly unable to meet important deadlines, the least it can do is maintain a consistent message about why...

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The importance of value

April 11, 2014

During the Natural History Conference at The College of the Bahamas, one thing that stood out was the small numbers of young, black Bahamians attending and even fewer presenting. They, according to many of the students I polled, do not see it as being important to their daily lives. The environment is not an issue...

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Mount Tabor warns against Facebook fraudsters

April 11, 2014

Online fraudsters have set up fake profiles for Bishop Neil Ellis to solicit money from unsuspecting users, officials from Mount Tabor Church have warned.
Ellis is senior pastor at Mount Tabor.
The church has cautioned people from sending money to these fraudsters.
Several people have fallen victim to the scheme; however, church officials do not know how many have sent money to the imposters, according to Miranda Inniss, Ellis' publicist.
Inniss said that as recently as last week, a user of a fake profile with the bishop's name and image solicited money for an orphanage.
"That's something that we have been dealing with for at least three years," she said.
"It's really something that's unavoidable. It happens constantly. There are a lot of imposters out there; I think there are at least three pages with his name on it.
"Whenever Facebook takes them down, somebody redoes it. It's a recurring problem."
Inniss said she does not know where the imposters live but she suspects they are foreigners.
A Facebook user, who did not want to be named, said a person using Ellis' name and image added her as a friend on Facebook a few weeks ago.
The user told The Nassau Guardian that the imposter began sending her private messages last week and then asked her to send money.
The user said she became suspicious after the imposter repeatedly sent her messages demanding money.
Inniss said the bishop does not have a personal Facebook profile but a general page that users can 'like' and follow.
She said Ellis was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

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Bank teams up with Junior Achievement for seminar

April 11, 2014

The financial consciousness of over 260 students between grades 7-9 was awakened at the Commonwealth Bank (CB) and Junior Achievement (JA) New Providence hosted the 'Let's Talk about the Future - Career & Financial Planning Seminar' held recently.
"CB, the education bank, is all about creating a firm learning foundation for our country's youth," said Juliet Fraser- Sr. Manager of Operations, Commonwealth Bank. "ln keeping with our corporate core value to lead by example and use our resources and expertise to affect positive change in The Bahamas, CB has sought to advance financial literacy in the country by partnering with Junior Achievement Bahamas, the country's largest youth economic program, to this seminar."
Philip Simon, executive vice chairman of JA Bahamas, remarked that JA is committed to introducing new and exciting initiatives for a younger demographic. "We in JA believe that assisting youth in making smarter financial decisions will have a positive correlation to happier futures and a more successful society," he explained when asked why JA has shifted it curriculum to include not only high school students but encompass K5 - grade 12.
During the daylong seminar the students were introduced to CB Kidz Savings Accounts, fundamentals of choosing a career path; saving, investing and financial implications on life events; managing a personal budget and setting financial goals.

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Cat Island residents complete NEMA building course

April 11, 2014

OLD BIGHT, Cat Island - About 30 residents graduated from a Safer Building Code Course held on Cat island, where most of the homes were severely damaged during the passage of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The three-week course was held by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in conjunction with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Bahamas Technical & Vocational Institute (BTVI) and the Bahamian Contractors' Association. The course was held under the theme: "Enhancing Community Resilience To Disaster".
The graduation ceremony was held at the Old Bight High School on April 5, 2014. Cat Island was struck by Hurricane Irene in 2011, and the following year by Hurricane Sandy, with more than 100 homes severely damaged or completely destroyed. Hence the island was chosen for the safer building code course, the third in the series held outside New Providence.
Director of NEMA Captain Stephen Russell noted that over the past 20 years, The Bahamas and the Caribbean have experienced major hurricanes, severe floods and other destructive weather systems, which seem to be growing in intensity. And in this vein CDEMA's aim is to have its 18 member countries implement building codes that are up to standards. The Safer Building Course is being supported through the Comprehensive Disaster Management Harmonised Implementation Programme: Phase I (CDM HIP) and is aimed at enhancing resilience and building a culture of safety at the community level in CDEMA participating states. The first two courses were held in New Providence; the second one included the Turks & Caicos Islands and Jamaica.
Captain Russell said that NEMA and BTVI have teamed up to ensure the sustainability of the safer building code program throughout the country. The participants concluded 90 hours of studying and training to enhance their skills and techniques in various areas taught by a wide cross section of skilled experts.
"Well done in making yourselves available after your regular working hours. I am comforted in knowing that you can build structures that can withstand any storm, with little or no damage," Captain Russell told the graduates. He also urged them to make themselves available and always ready to assist. Also participating in the ceremony were: Dr Iva Dahl, manager/consultant, BTVI; Alexander Darville, dean of construction trades and workforce, BTVI; Godfrey Forbes, resident, Bahamian Contractors' Association and Jackson McIntosh, administrator, Cat Island.

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Christie extends condolences on passing of former Bermuda premier

April 11, 2014

Prime Minister Perry Christie has released a statement on the recent passing of Sir David Gibbons, former premier and minister of finance of Bermuda, at the age of 85. Gibbons was also a long-time investor in the Bahamian economy and for a lengthy period a resident of The Bahamas as well.
"Sir David was for many years a powerful force in the life and times of Bermuda, both in the political and economic spheres," said Christie in the statement. "As the leader of the United Bermuda Party (UBP), he was from 1977 to 1982 the premier of the colony and its minister of finance as well."
He continued, "Sir David was also, however, a significant investor in The Bahamas, especially in the wholesale liquor business as a shareholder of the ABDAB/General Bahamian Companies (GBC) Group and, in more recent years, in the insurance business as the driving force behind Atlantic Medical."
Christie pointed out that although Gibbons was a patriotic native of Bermuda, he was proud of his connection to The Bahamas and its people, among whom he claimed a great many of his friends. "He always took a keen interest in Bahamian affairs and was unfailingly generous and constructive in his advice to successive governments of The Bahamas," noted Christie.
"On behalf of the government and people of The Bahamas, and on my own behalf, I extend condolences to Sir David's bereaved family and to the government and people of Bermuda."

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Govt rejects U.S. trade demand

April 10, 2014

The United States has called for The Bahamas to immediately drop all of its duties on U.S. products coming into this country on "day one" of The Bahamas' accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) - a request which the government has rejected on the basis that it could wipe out the domestic economy, according to the minister of financial services.
Disclosing some of the background to The Bahamas' bilateral negotiations over the terms of its bid to join the WTO, Ryan Pinder said that the U.S. government has not been "amenable" to The Bahamas' phasing in tariff reductions on U.S. goods. "Phasing in" refers to the ability to reduce the duty rate levels over a number of years.
However, he suggested that the government has struck back on the issue, suggesting that a phased-in reduction of tariffs on U.S. goods - the vast majority of all imported goods coming into The Bahamas - would be more appropriate.
He was speaking at a meeting yesterday between members of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation and David Shark, deputy director general of the WTO, who is in the country to engage with stakeholders over The Bahamas' accession process.
Among the requirements of joining the WTO is that The Bahamas lowers its duty rates on goods imported into the country. It is this requirement that contributes in part to the decision by the government to push ahead with introducing a new form of revenue collection in the form of value added tax (VAT), although the WTO deputy director said the WTO itself has no preference about what form of tax the government chooses to replace former duty taxes with.
In a question and answer session, Pinder said that how quickly and how low The Bahamas would have to reduce its duties is not a decision of the WTO, but one which is determined in bilateral negotiations with other WTO members.
Pinder said, "The EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement trade deal with Europe) is phased, and they phase to zero, so at some point in time there will be no duty paid on items sourced out of the E.U., but it's not a huge deal because I think there's $8 million of revenue a year to the government on E.U. products.
"Now the U.S.: day one that's what they want. Imagine if they said let's phase it to zero like the EPA, because that's what they'll use as a precedent: You negotiated the EPA, you phased, you phased to zero. So imagine if we phase to zero (on goods coming from the U.S.) - you would not have a domestic economy because you would not have 35 percent on ready made items anymore, you'd have zero. So you have to be careful what you push for at times.
He added: "Right now the U.S. is taking the posture that they want on-day one reductions. They've taken the posture they want cuts straight across the board. We've taken the position we're not going to negotiate on that basis but we will negotiate trying to protect domestic industry.
"I think they got the point but there'll be further negotiations on that. So they haven't been too amenable to phasing. We anticipate that in some time in the future we will have to re-negotiate the Caribbean Basin Initiative on a bilateral basis which is a whole other issue with respect to the U.S. and their trading regime," said Pinder.
In terms of how the government would make up the lost revenue, the government has a plan of sorts in place in the form of the implementation of value added tax, or - if the private sector has its way - some other form of alternative taxation.
However, replacing the revenue lost to the government when duties are reduced under WTO accession does not address the challenge of how the reduction in duties would impact local manufacturers, who rely on the fact that the goods they produce have high rates of duty applied when they cross the border.
In this regard, seven months on from when he announced that the government would be undertaking a study to examine the "vulnerabilities and opportunities" that would arise for Bahamian businesses from joining the WTO, Minister of Trade, Ryan Pinder, said yesterday that the government is now moving to shortlist who will conduct this study so the government will have a clearer picture of the impact on industry of acceding to the WTO.
At present, Pinder has stated a goal of December 2014 for The Bahamas to complete its lengthy accession process, but has also indicated that the process could well continue into 2015.
In an interview with Guardian Business yesterday, Shark touted the benefits of WTO accession. He said that WTO members have been seen to have recovered more quickly following the global economic downturn, as a result of having a more certain environment for investment.
"The Bahamas is already heavily integrated into the international trading system, so for a country that's as deeply enmeshed in international trade as the Bahamas the better question is 'Why not (join)?'
"As a member of the WTO, you get to level the playing field with some of your neighbors. You're the only CARICOM member who's not a member of the WTO, and when companies are trying to decide where to invest, being a member of the WTO provides assurances to investors of the conditions of their investment...and all of that matters a lot in terms of being a part of global supply chains.
"The rules of international trade, whether you are a member of the WTO or not, affect you, so why wouldn't you want to be at the table in negotiating those rules?
"It's protection against protectionism; if someone does something that causes you harm you can challenge them whether you are a large or small country, under the WTO system," he added.

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Bahamians seek partnership approval in bid for cellular license

April 10, 2014

A Bahamian-owned company is planning a $40 million investment in telecommunications infrastructure if it obtains government approval to join forces with an international mobile services provider and become the next company selected to gain a mobile license in the newly-liberalized mobile environment.
IP Solutions International Limited (IPSI) currently has an application before the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) to approve a share purchase agreement and change in control for the company, which would permit it to bring in Limitless Mobile Holdings as an equity and strategic partner that would assist the local company in continuing to build out its infrastructure and its network.
Limitless Mobile owns and operates a mobile network in the United States, which is currently being upgraded to 4G/LTE. In Europe, Limitless owns and operates a mobile network in the UK, Germany, Denmark, Poland and Sweden.
Those currently involved in IPSI include CEO and major shareholder, Edison Sumner, Sir Orville Turnquest, Virginia Damianos and Larry Carroll. Limitless Mobile Holdings is led by Richard Worley, former chairman of Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and Charles Ryan, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Deutsche UFG, one of Russia's leading investment companies.
BTC's mobile exclusivity period lasted for three years after Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) bought a 51 percent stake in BTC, as a condition of their purchase.
IPSI, which has been in existence since 2008, has already received the necessary individual spectrum and operating licenses that would enable it to offer fixed line, television and broadband Internet services - known as "triple play".
IPSI claims to have already built and deployed most of the infrastructure necessary to deliver its IPTV, broadband wireless internet and landline (voice over internet protocol) services in new Providence and Abaco and until recently has been servicing the communications needs of the Baker's Bay development on Guana Cay, Abaco for over three years.
In a release sent by Sumner late yesterday afternoon confirming information obtained by Guardian Business, IPSI disclosed that it is waiting for government approval of its partnership with Limitless Mobile before it moves ahead with building out its network and launching its planned rollout of full multi-play media and communications services throughout The Bahamas, which it hopes will include mobile data and voice services.
Sumner told Guardian Business that IPSI is "aptly qualified to get involved in the mobile space" and is prepared to begin the build out of its infrastructure in this regard immediately after they get the approvals from the government on the foreign direct investment component.
"The company intends to spend in excess of $40 million building out its network, the 4G LTE network, and completing the build out of the IP TV infrastructure. The fixed line and broadband infrastructure is already in existence and we just need to begin to migrate our customers onto that. We were already approved in doing it but wanted to wait until we got all of these approvals before moving ahead," said Sumner.
Guardian Business understands that the company has officially made known its hopes of becoming a mobile service provider in The Bahamas, and shortly intends to formally announce its intentions to the public.
Among other companies, Digicel has expressed its continued interest in becoming involved in the mobile space in The Bahamas, telling Guardian Business on Monday that it would hope the government will "imminently" outline how it expects potential participants to go about that. However, Digicel has also elicited a strong negative response from the union that represents BTC staff, the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union.
Consequently, IPSI is hoping it may be able to - despite Digicel's stronger financial clout - put itself forward as a more union-friendly company as a means of gaining more union and potentially political favor in the process.
As it stands, the ball is now in the prime minister's court, as the minister responsible of outlining how companies interested in gaining the license to become mobile operators in The Bahamas should proceed in doing that. This would, consequently, open the door to the formal launch of the bid to find a new provider.
There are various types of processes which governments can typically engage in to identify new providers, including auctioning the opportunity or issuing a request for proposal.
In a statement to Guardian Business on the end of BTC's exclusivity period in mobile phone services, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation said that it supports more competition in all sectors of the economy as it "simply creates broader economic and commercial opportunities, while at the same time ensuring that the power is rightly placed in the hand of the consumer."
"We do acknowledge the progress that the new BTC has made with expanded offerings and competitive pricing. We are encouraged by the competition that we see emerging within the marketplace for broadband and land line services.
"For us to see optimal service delivery and best possible packages and prices though, we do need strong robust and fair competition in the sector," said BCCEC Chairman Chester Cooper.

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Secretary general: 'Dismal standards' in Freeport

April 10, 2014

The dispute between the marine pilots and their former employers in Freeport has been taken to another level, with a top official of the International Marine Pilots' Association (IMPA) telling an international conference that there are "dismal standards" for pilotage in Freeport Harbour.
Throwing his support behind the Bahamas Marine Pilots Association (BMPA), Nick Cutmore, secretary general of IMPA, told delegates at the 22nd IMPA Congress in Panama that he was shocked to learn about the situation in Freeport as it relates to pilotage when he was invited there by the BMPA earlier this year.
Cutmore said, "You'll remember a battle at the International Maritime Organization over new rules they wanted to introduce over pilots, following, amongst other things, an accident involving one of their vessels in Canada. Notwithstanding the fact that the vessel in question had a steering failure, and the fact that the authorities in Canada were already investigating it, the distinguished delegate from The Bahamas decided they needed new rules for your profession.
"Imagine my surprise, then, two weeks ago, to find in The Bahamas' own backyard as far as pilotage is concerned, dismal standards, no oversight, commercial expediency, a
long list of accidents and just plain stupidity.
"The pilots there are trying to form themselves into one cohesive group and shake off the sloppiness ...They are struggling and they have all resigned their posts to press the issue. I would like you to think about that. That's a staggering leap of faith. I am pleased we have a representative here from The Bahamas and I hope you'll be able to hear him on Friday," said the IMPA secretary general.
Fifteen marine pilots resigned their posts with the Freeport Harbour Company and the Bahamas Oil Refining Company International Limited (BORCO) in early March, alleging concerns over a lack of sufficient training and oversight, and committing themselves to forming an independent pilotage authority that would allow them to provide their piloting services to large vessels entering Freeport Harbour free of commercial pressures.
Their former employers, the FHC and BORCO have denied any safety issues exist at the harbor, and refute the pilots' claims that independent pilotage is necessary to ensure safety of the vessels entering. They have stated that the pilots are being motivated by profit alone, and they have hired replacement pilots.
The companies assert that business is continuing as usual, but the former pilots say that there are not enough pilots and they do not have sufficient experience.
The BMPA pilots have been seeking to obtain a business license which would give them the opportunity to continue to provide their piloting services, but have struggled to do so given what their attorney, former GBPA in-house counsel, Carey Leonard, called "unusual" delays in the process.
Yesterday, BMPA Managing Director, Erin Carey, said they see "no solution" to the situation, as yet, and they continue to believe there are too few pilots operating at present.
"All we have requested is that the government issue us a license to pilot as a company. All of the pilots are already individually licensed. We are waiting for the Ministry of Transport," said Ferguson.
Guardian Business sources close to the matter have previously alleged that at the heart of the situation is concern over the loss of revenue to the Freeport Harbour Company if they allow private marine pilots to provide services, rather than collecting the service fees themselves.
In a statement issued yesterday, Minister of Transport, Glenys Hanna-Martin, suggested that the government does not consider the matter resolved.
"The government through several ministries has been in dialogue with the relevant stakeholders and we are hopeful of an amicable solution for all concerned," she said.
Offered an opportunity to respond to Cutmore's comments yesterday neither the FHC or BORCO chose to do so.

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