Nassau Guardian Stories

Data safety concerns for AEOI

November 12, 2014

Former Attorney General (AG) John Delaney believes that a jurisdiction's ability to safeguard sensitive financial information should be taken into consideration when determining whether to grant access to such data.
Delaney told Guardian Business he approved of the decision by the Ministry of Finance to adopt the Common Reporting Standard for Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) for tax purposes, and pursue AEOI through bilateral arrangements with select jurisdictions.
The issue arose in the context of a push by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for nations to adopt multilateral AEOI. The Bahamas committed to bilateral AEOI with select partners under the new standard by the end of 2018.
Delaney and others in the financial and tax law arena say that is the right way to go.
"The bilateral mechanism is an opportunity for the jurisdiction to say that 'this jurisdiction, based on all of our understanding and knowledge, would be able to responsibly use the information for the purposes that we intend to share it'. And then, we might come to a different decision with respect to some other jurisdiction," Delaney said.
"In some countries, financial information could be misused for political purposes, as well as for other criminal purposes, whether it be kidnapping or something else," he added. "[That is] why I say the bilateral mechanism is the appropriate way to go."
Delaney said the other reason to pursue bilateral AEOI is flexibility.
"It gives The Bahamas an opportunity to seek to secure some mutual benefit in making the particular arrangement," he said. "Whenever you are doing something bilaterally, it gives you an opportunity to come to an arrangement that is more tailor-made, more tailored to The Bahamas, and the real opportunities for that will likely come with our major trading partners."
Pointing out the 31 tax information exchange agreements that The Bahamas has already negotiated, Delaney noted that in some cases there are additional benefits for both parties. Shying away from naming any jurisdictions, Delaney said that there are some partners with whom the negotiation of such agreements would likely be "an opportunity for us to have an agreement that benefits us more than simply complying with the Common Reporting Standard... what I would call 'bilateral treaty plus'."

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RFP opens for 2nd cellular license

November 12, 2014

Prime Minister Perry Christie, together with the Cellular Liberalization Task Force (CLTF) headed by former Financial Secretary Ruth Millar, yesterday issued the government's request for proposals (RFP) for parties interested in securing license to provide cellular services in The Bahamas, laying out the terms of the two-phase competitive selection process expected to be complete by April next year.
The government noted that the cost of registration - a prerequisite for accessing the RFP - is $5,000. The fee to actually submit a proposal is $25,000, and those proposals are due by February 2, 2015. The government expects to announce a winner by April.
Prime Minister Christie explained that the selection process involves a technical and financial assessment in phase one and a spectrum auction in phase two.
"Only those applicants that satisfy the minimum criteria of phase one will be allowed to participate in phase two. The successful applicant, in the end, will be the one that acquires the highest combined score of the scores derived in phase one and phase two," he said.
"With this approach, the government is seeking to strike the right balance of optimizing the revenue from allocating rights to valuable spectrum, with its broader objectives of promoting competition, investment and innovation in the cellular mobile market."
Selection process
The first phase of the RFP process is a technical and financial assessment. During this phase, an evaluation committee consisting of members of the CLTF and other experts will judge the capabilities of those parties submitting proposals. Submitters will be made to prove their financial and technical capacity to meet the terms of the RFP and provide the service at the level required.
CLTF member Michelle Grell-Bereaux explained that once the evaluation committee has determined which applicants would progress to phase two, the spectrum auction, an announcement will be made.
"URCA (the Utilities Regulatory and Competition Authority) will conduct a spectrum auction on behalf of the government. The spectrum auction currently being proposed is a multiround ascending auction that would be conducted online. That is what is currently being proposed by URCA," Grell-Bereaux reported.
At least three companies have already expressed an interest in bidding for the second cellular license: regional telecoms giant Digicel, local start-up Junkanoo Mobile and IP Solutions International (IPSI), a Bahamian company partnered with Limitless Mobile Holdings.
Third license
BTC Deputy Chair Rowena Bethel confirmed for Guardian Business yesterday that the law provides for a third license to be issued in 2016.
Bethel pointed out that under the Communications Act of 2009, the then government provided for Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to enjoy a three-year monopoly in cellular services following the privatization. Given that the company was privatized in 2011, that puts the expiration of that monopoly at April 2014, opening the market for a second licensee.
"Under the same provision, it guarantees a duopoly - two players in the market - until 2016, and in 2016, the law gives the government the option to consider the entrance of a third licensee into the market," Bethel said.
"Of course the prevailing factors and circumstances would be brought to bear before the determination of that type would be made," she added, noting that while the government has the right to issue a third license in 2016, there is no guarantee that it will do so.
In fact, the information provided by the Office of The Prime Minister to accompany the announcement of the RFP indicated that the government's intention is to delay the possible entry of a third cellular mobile operator for at least three years from the commercial launch of the second operator.
Transparency
Christie also explained the measures intended to ensure the transparency of the process.
In order to receive a copy of the RFP, an interested party must register to participate in the process, at a cost of $5,000. All registered entities will have the opportunity to seek clarification on the RFP via a virtual data room that has been set up by the task force. All queries made and responses to those queries will be posted within the data room for all registered entities to see.
"This will be the only mechanism for persons participating in this process to communicate with the task force and/or the evaluation committee about this process," the prime minister said.
The task force has created a website where persons can obtain further details about the task force and the selection process on the government's website:
http://www.bahamas.gov.bs/cellularliberalisation.

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Mitchell: G20 must change development assistance policy

November 12, 2014

Leaders in G20 nations have an understanding that current methods of assessing who qualifies for international development assistance - particularly those methods based on GDP per capita - are flawed, but getting those nations to translate that understanding into policy change is the "hat trick" that The Bahamas and the wider CARICOM bloc must perform.
"The irritant in our relations [with Japan and the other G20 countries] is the question of international development assistance," Mitchell said. "As Japan currently structures its programs, The Bahamas and all the countries of the region are not able to take advantage of any concessionary funding because of the GDP per capita.
"We think that's a serious error, and I gather that there's some work on trying to (make progress in) that matter."
Mitchell said the question of calculation of GDP per capita - a persistent thorn in the side of many of the paper-rich small island developing states - could be expressed as the "Robinson Crusoe" problem. Two people might be stranded on an island, one worth $1 billion and the other worth $1; the GDP per capita on that island would therefore be $500,000,000.50 - an obvious distortion.
"To me, it's not about formulations. Its about changing the policy and the mindset on how you apply this. You have to look at other things like the Human Development Index (HDI), the income distribution issues, the prevalence of poverty and development."
The minister stressed that seeking policy change in this area is not a matter of "begging for anything".
"This is not talking about people handing you money," he said. "This is saying that if I am looking for capital, I should be able to borrow that capital at favorable rates, given the levels of my development, and the distribution of income and the HDI in my country, as opposed to looking simply at GDP per capita."
The Bahamas Ambassador to CARICOM Picewell Forbes and Ambassador-Designate to Japan Dr. Elwood Donaldson are leading the Bahamas mission to Tokyo for the fourth CARICOM-Japan Ministerial Meeting that will take place later this week. Mitchell said they are empowered to carry the message that the time for policy change has come.
Japan is the third largest economy in the world, Mitchell pointed out, adding it is important that The Bahamas ensures a good bilateral relationship with such an important nation.
"We are trying to ensure that we have good bilateral relationships with all the G20 countries," Mitchell said. "That's why we are there at the G20 conference with our CARICOM brethren, and also because CARICOM itself is an influential body."
Mitchell said the regional bloc has "considerable influence", given the numbers of people who live in the Caribbean.

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Woods: The Bahamas likely cannot govern airline registry

November 12, 2014

Bahamasair Managing Director Henry Woods yesterday warned it is unlikely that The Bahamas would be able to govern an international aircraft registry in the near future, despite the significant economic benefits a registry would provide.
Woods told Guardian Business that The Bahamas could learn from similar initiatives undertaken by regional competitors, including Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, if it wishes to create a registry.
"It is something that is very, very beneficial to territories like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, and it is something that we should look into.
"Other countries like us have benefited greatly from having an international registry, but being able to govern it is another [issue]. Once it's on your register, you're responsible," said Woods.
Successive governments have toyed with the idea of establishing an international aircraft registry. However, little definitive progress has been made.
Creating a registry would benefit the country's aviation sector through ancillary services, such as provisioning and maintenance. A registry would also likely benefit The Bahamas' financial services sector through aircraft leasing, insurance and basic registration.

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Region faces infrastructure and regulation challenges, ALTA chief says

November 12, 2014

The airline industry's projections anticipate moving 200 million passengers in the Caribbean and Latin America this year; that number is expected to more than double to 550 million within 20 years, and at least one regional official is concerned that both infrastructure and regulation in the region are insufficient to take on the mammoth task ahead.
Speaking at the opening of the 2014 Latin America and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) Airline Leaders Forum hosted by Bahamasair, ALTA President Andres Conesa stressed the importance of aviation in the region and warned that redevelopment steps need to be taken as annual passenger numbers swell. In his view, Latin America and the Caribbean continue to suffer from a "huge lack" of investment in aviation infrastructure.
"We have projections to move close to 200 million passengers in the region this year. It's huge and it's growing, but because of this we face challenges related to infrastructure [and] regulation," said Conesa.
ALTA Executive Director Eduardo Iglesias noted that the 20-year forecast projects that this number will explode to some 550 million passengers, which raises significant concerns over the region's ability to transport and process air passengers.
"We have a huge lack of infrastructure investment in Latin America and the Caribbean, and if we are not able to maximize the benefit and the value of the current installed infrastructure, we will not be able to make it.
"We're not only talking about airports. We're talking about air traffic control, customs processes and immigration issues," stated Iglesias.
The annual conference, which brings together 43 member airlines throughout the region, will focus on sharing best practices for customs and infrastructural concerns, among other lingering issues within the region.
Regarding streamlining the customs process between regional countries, Iglesias touched on the importance of new technologies, including automated passport control (APC) kiosks.
The warning follows the Nassau Airport Development Company's (NADC) announcement that it will install 20 APC kiosks in Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) by February 2015 as a preparatory step for the influx of visitors expected after Baha Mar opens in early 2015.

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CARICOM, Japan focus on development agenda

November 12, 2014

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced a new appointment to the diplomatic corps: Ambassador-Designate to Japan Dr. Elwood Donaldson will present his letters of credence to Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Akitaka Saiki today in Tokyo, as member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) gather in Tokyo for the fourth CARICOM-Japan Ministerial Meeting that will take later this week.
Donaldson, who currently serves as Bahamas ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), will function as non-resident ambassador to Japan.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said recently that the ministerial meeting would provide an opportunity to assess the progress of implementation of the Japan-CARICOM Partnership Programme.
"This program emanated from the framework outcome document entitled, 'Partnership for Peace, Development and Prosperity between Japan and the member states of the Caribbean community'. Under the CARICOM-JAPAN Partnership Programme, focus is directed to the thematic issues of integration into the global economy; the environment and climate change; the promotion of human security; and dialogues and exchanges between Japan and CARICOM," Mitchell said.
"The Bahamas, like the rest of CARICOM, looks forward to engaging with Japan, the third largest economy in the world by nominal GDP standards. We believe that Japan's intervention in international fora can demonstrate its interest in the sustainable development of CARICOM member states. As the world prepares to look at the post-2015 development agenda, it is crucial that the unique agenda and particular vulnerabilities and challenges to the sustainable growth and development of small island developing states are taken into account," he said.
Mitchell was speaking at the Bahamas' Taste CARICOM-Japan Reception held last week.
The Bahamas established diplomatic relations with Japan on March 11, 1975.

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ALTA executive cautious on PPPs

November 12, 2014

A leading official of the Latin America and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) said yesterday "transparency is key" if the government's plans for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in airport development are to succeed.
ALTA Executive Director Eduardo Iglesias told Guardian Business that his experience with PPPs throughout Latin America and the Caribbean have made him cautious about contracts between governments and private sector entities.
"Transparency is key, especially for the government. When you are proposing [PPPs] as a way to bring in investment, you should do it in a transparent way. In the end, it's more efficient," said Iglesias.
PPPs are often seen as cost-effective and efficient solutions to local infrastructure concerns. The partnerships typically involve investments from a private sector entity to develop a public project, such as roads or airports.
Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin announced during last month's Exuma Business Outlook that the critical overhaul of the country's airport network would cost an estimated $185 million.
Although the breakdown of this figure is unclear, Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle has previously asserted that the government was seeking expressions of interest (EOIs) from the private sector in extensive infrastructural PPPs for airports throughout the Family Islands.
Iglesias also warned that inflexible PPP contracts have also led to problems as projects progressed, be they through setbacks or ill-advised concessions.
"I support [PPPs], as long as those contracts are negotiated in a balanced way. What we've seen in the region is a shift from public management to concessions that are not properly negotiated.
"That creates some imbalances in how an airport is administered," said Iglesias.
Iglesias, along with other senior ALTA officials and CEOs from over 20 leading regional airlines, met for the opening of the 11th ALTA Airline Leaders Forum at Atlantis yesterday.
"We are not against public-private partnerships, what we are saying here is that if that's the way that government [goes], make sure that you hire people who are able to negotiate those agreements that leave some leeway to be renegotiated along the way.
"We need some degree of flexibility to be embedded in those agreements, to make sure that they can grow in a very efficient way," he said.

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Three Bahamians at EY qualify as Certified Public Accountants

November 12, 2014

EY has announced that three Bahamians in its Nassau office have passed their exams and qualified as certified public accountants (CPAs). The three are Donillo L. Culmer, Taneisha A. Dean and Karen A. Richardson.
"Qualifying as a CPA is a big step in the career of these outstanding professionals, and speaks to their deep knowledge of accounting principles and practices," said Michele Thompson, EY managing partner. "Passing the CPA exam requires a great deal of focus, tenacity and discipline, so EY is proud to recognize Donillo,Taneisha and Karen, and to have them as part of our team. At EY we are committed to helping our people build their skills and further advance their careers for the betterment of themselves and ultimately, our clients."
Donillo L. Culmer joined EY in August 2014 as a staff accountant. He graduated from Saint Augustine's College in 2008 and holds a bachelor of arts degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from Morehouse College, as well as a master's degree in business administration from Clark Atlanta University.
Taneisha A. Dean joined EY in July 2013 as a staff accountant. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in accounting from the College of Saint Benedict, Minnesota.
Karen A. Richardson joined EY in July 2013 as a staff accountant. She has more than 11 years of knowledge and experience in commercial banking operations. She holds a bachelor's of business and administration degree in computer information systems and a diploma in accounting from The College of The Bahamas.
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services the company delivers helps build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. It develops outstanding leaders who team together to deliver on its promises to all of its stakeholders. In so doing, the company plays a critical role in building a better working world for its people, for its clients and for its communities.
For more information about the organization, please visit ey.com.

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IPTV testing to eliminate technical bugs

November 12, 2014

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) aims to eliminate technical bugs in its Internet Protocol (IP) TV service by testing in small communities, like Bimini, before bringing the service to New Providence next year, according to BTC CEO Leon Williams.
Williams reiterated that BTC plans to start testing IPTV in Bimini in two weeks. Speaking at press conference yesterday to give an update on the $65 million upgrade to BTC's networks, Williams said that the service would soon spread to other Family Islands as the company preforms troubleshooting procedures.
"We will start data testing in Bimini. In the next two weeks, we'll deploy in Bimini. Subsequent to Bimini, we will deploy the network in Cat Island and in Andros," said Williams.
IP TV is a system that provides TV services to customers through the Internet, rather than traditional satellite or cable TV formats.
Williams said that BTC aims to eliminate technical bugs by testing in small communities before bringing the service to New Providence next year.
"We will look for the low-hanging fruits in those settlements, for example in Inagua, where there's a small concentration," he said.
However, Williams did not provide a figure on BTC's investment in its IP TV services.
Williams additionally hopes that BTC co-parent company Cable & Wireless Communications' (CWC) recent acquisition of Barbados-based Columbus International will lead to further expertise and synergies that would reduce costs and wait times for BTC's customers.
CWC acquired the telecoms company for $1.9 billion earlier this week.
Williams also touted BTC's recent $65 million upgrade to its network, which includes 107 new 4G LTE sites. Williams stated that the upgrade gives BTC 99 percent coverage throughout the country "for improved roaming experiences".

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BORCO recruiting young Bahamians

November 12, 2014

Buckeye Bahamas (BORCO) and its sister affiliates started the third year of its Petroleum Products and Measurement Program at Bishop Michael Eldon School (BMES) last week. The program aims to educate students on possible careers in the petroleum field, and this year, 26 high school students from BMES were chosen to take the afterschool program.
Headed by Andrew Williams, operations planner at BORCO, and Perez Burrows, a Statoil operator, this eight-week course offers potential young recruits an insight into everything oil-related, mechanical and scientific.
Principal of BMES Anita Docherty encouraged the students to embrace this wonderful occasion afforded them. "I encourage you to do better than your predecessors and to surpass the expectations in this course. These young men have chosen our school to help and I want you to embrace the opportunity this industry can offer you - it's a well-kept secret and the prospects are endless," stated the veteran educator.
Led by Williams, Burrows and affiliates from Inspetorate, Amspec, Intertek/Caleb Bret and Saybolt, students will attend free afterschool classes on Thursdays and also have various field trips to BORCO and Statoil labs. "My colleagues and I donate our time to this education opportunity," said Williams. "Thanks to finding this job, I have traveled all over - the Middle East, Europe and the U.S., and I can work anywhere now. Luckily enough, I can work at home and I want others to consider this career and embrace the chance we have in our own backyard."
Speaking to the students at the opening day, Perez Burrows urged the students to grasp this time with persons in the business to give them an advantage over other students they are competing with worldwide. "This is the time to excel and show us what you are capable of," said Burrows. "Those of you who take this chance may gain a better advantage for college acceptance or placement in the trainee programs."
According to Williams, six of the top 10 companies in the world by revenue for the year 2014 are petroleum companies. "Some of these mega companies are affiliated with BORCO, Statoil and their affiliates and our little country is in the midst of a mass petroleum movement worldwide. My advice is to make smart career choices and become part of the fastest growing industry right here.

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46 students enter Teacher-Cadet Program

November 12, 2014

The Teacher-Cadet Program recently received an influx of 46 students who it is hoped would be among the 2017 entrants of the School of Education at The College of The Bahamas.
Tenth grade students from 14 high schools, an even split between public and private schools on New Providence, were inducted into the program during a recent ceremony in the ballroom at Government House hosted by Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling.
C.V. Bethel Senior High School had the largest cadre of students from the public sector, with seven students; Queen's College had the largest from the independent schools, with four students being inducted. Of the inductees, nine students are aspiring mathematics teachers, eight hope to pursue primary education, six of the aspiring teachers have an interest in early childhood education and five for both English and science. Other subjects of interest across the inductees include accounts, business studies family/consumer science, music, Spanish and special education.
The new inductees along with the program's cadet graduates were charged to always strive for excellence by Angela Pratt-Rolle, undersecretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
As future teachers, she told them that they would have an "awesome responsibility" because they will play an important role in shaping the future of the country.
She likened the students to artists and told them that, as educators, they "[will] shape minds, paint hearts with a passion for learning, mold character, sketch dreams and help create the architectural blueprint for the development of our nation's youth".
Pratt-Rolle stressed to them the importance of never settling for mediocrity and said that, in choosing excellence, they must also choose to be life-long learners.
"Three of the most powerful things [you] could possibly possess are wisdom, knowledge and understanding."
The students were told that when they are able to use those elements as tools in their daily lives, they would become a seamless inclusion in their lessons and their lives as educators.
She reminded them that education as a career is a noble profession - by far the most valuable and important career there is.
"While you may not be paid lavishly, the return on your investment will be manifested in the lives you empower," said Pratt-Rolle.
The education ministry employee told the teacher cadets that their gratification would be in seeing their pupils succeed and that they would help to create the country's future leaders.
"Teachers give what cannot be taken away -- a wealth of knowledge and information that, once you acquire, will remain yours for a lifetime."
While a lot of the emphasis was placed on the new inductees, this year's 23 graduates who matriculated at The College of The Bahamas were also awarded for their successful completion of the three-year Teacher-Cadet Program.
The Future Teachers of The Bahamas, also referred to as the "Teacher-Cadet Program", was established in 1995 to meet the increasing shortage of skilled teachers in critical areas. It is an innovative approach to attract students to the teaching profession and encourage them to become interested in teaching. The program aims to provide insight into the nature of teaching, critical issues in education and the importance of teaching so that eventually the cadets will make teaching their career of choice.
The criteria for eligibility into the program include five or more Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) passes with grade C or better, going through an interview process, having a keen interest in the teaching profession in specific teaching disciplines, having the ability to succeed in the education program at The College of The Bahamas and applicants must be Bahamian citizens.

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St. George's High School graduate awarded FIDA scholarship

November 12, 2014

St. George's High School graduate Teonya Takahra Knowles is the eighth recipient of a two-year scholarship awarded by the Grand Bahama Chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA).
Knowles, who aspires to enter the field of law, will pursue an Associate of Arts in law and criminal Justice. She was named the scholarship recipient yesterday. The FIDA Scholarship, valued at $2,000 annually, is tenable at The College of The Bahamas.
The award is available for Bahamian citizens and Grand Bahama residents who are recent high school graduates from a Grand Bahamian high school. The student must have at least five Bahamas General Certificates of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examination results at grade "C" or above, including mathematics and English, and a minimum 3.0 high school grade point average.
Knowles earned seven BGCSE examination results.
Previous scholarships were awarded to Patrick Lamar (electrical engineering), Kishmere Rolle (pharmacology), Destiny McKinney (law), Pedro Neely (biology with a minor in chemistry), Abigail Wallace (biology with a minor in chemistry), Jessica Bain (physics with a minor in mathematics) and Angelique Smith (biology with a minor in chemistry).
In 2009, FIDA also introduced a $500 book grant for a student(s) attending The College of The Bahamas in recognition of their outstanding academic achievement. One grant is given in memory of late FIDA member Nekcarla Grant. This year, the FIDA awarded three book grants to deserving students -- Tamarind Johnson, a graduate of St. George's High School and student at The College of The Bahamas in New Providence; Tominitra King, a graduate of Grand Bahama Catholic High School who received the Nekcarla Grant Book Grant and who is pursuing a degree in banking and finance, and Shavanya Roberts, a graduate of Grand Bahama Catholic High School who is pursuing an associate degree in law and criminal justice.
FIDA is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Organized in Mexico City in 1944 to promote the principles and aims of the United Nations in their legal and social aspects, FIDA works to establish friendly international relations on a basis of mutual respect and equality, and to promote the welfare of women and children. Members and affiliates from 80 countries meet every second year in the country of the current president, in rotation among five areas of the world during which time articles on legal and humanistic topics is issued biennially.
Individual membership is open to male and female law graduates admitted to practice in their respective countries or eligible to be admitted. Academics and law students can also be members. Apolitical, non-profit, independent organizations of women lawyers may affiliate with FIDA as voting members. Men and women non-lawyers interested in the advancement of women in the legal profession may participate in FIDA as patrons. FIDA New Providence was reestablished as a chapter in March 2014.

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29 Berry Islanders graduate BTVI general maintenance course

November 12, 2014

The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) recently graduated 29 Berry Islanders from its general maintenance course.
The 16-week course included fundamentals of carpentry, plumbing, tiling and electrical installation. The course offered each Friday evening and Saturday, spanned a 10-hour period per weekend. The graduates included R. N. Gomez All Age School students as well as adults.
BTVI Academic Dean Pleshette McPhee told the graduates at the ceremony held at St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church in Bullock's Harbour, Berry Islands that, with global competitiveness, higher education was becoming increasingly critical.
"Through tertiary education, individuals are armed with a multitude of skills relevant for improving their lives within a society. As critical thinkers, entrepreneurs, innovators and engineers, educated citizens share the responsibility to be catalysts for change," said McPhee.
R. N. Gomez Principal Brian Williams also encouraged the graduates. "Crime is out of control, but you are moving in the right direction. Our future is bright. Our future is secured," he said.
School Deputy Head Boy Pharon Winder, who hopes to join the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, recognized the significance of the course and how it would factor into his future.
"It was needed. I will need some of these skills on the defense force and even on a daily basis," said the 16-year-old. "This can take me far. I can show others what I have learned and build on my experience," he said.
Janette Taylor, 49, said the skills she learned would serve her well.
"I have a building I am opening and can hook up lights, do some plumbing and some carpentry. I'm so excited. It was very helpful and it made me feel young," she said.
The Berry Islands Homeowners Association and members of the community also played an integral role in helping the participants.
President of the Berry Island Homeowners Association William Kalis expressed his continued support of such initiatives sponsored by the association. He reminded the graduates that they are an important part of the world economy.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were BTVI Dean of Construction Trades Alexander Darville, BTVI Chief Councilor Cardinal Rolle and Michelle Bowleg, education district superintendent.
BTVI previously conducted the same course in Harbour Island, Cat Island, Andros and Exuma.

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COB Sigma stages entrepreneurship seminar

November 12, 2014

College of The Bahamas students got the opportunity to explore the possibility of entrepreneurship as a viable career path and learn about entrepreneurship opportunities in the country recently, courtesy of the collegiate chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.
The Beta Beta Lamba Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma organized and hosted the seminar as a part of Sigma Week at the country's largest tertiary institution.
"This seminar has become a signature event for the chapter, and students say they get a lot out of it," said President of Beta Beta Lambda Mick Massaar. "We had a packed house with students asking lots of question so I'm sure we got the message out about a career in entrepreneurship."
Four local entrepreneurs interacted with students at the Harry C. Moore Library in a panel discussion on how to start a business, the joys of running their own businesses and the challenges of getting a business up and running.
Seminar panelists included creative consultant Randia Coakley; Owner of Islandz and Islandz Tours Jaime Lewis; business consultant Yohancy Kemp and Derek W. Smith Jr., a public relations and photography business owner.
"The promotion of entrepreneurship is a part of the international fraternity's global initiative of bigger, better business and seeks to transform our communities through promoting and supporting small business," said graduate advisor for the collegiate chapter Christopher Saunders. "The fact that Beta Beta Lambda has decided to embrace this aspect speaks volumes for the long-term vision the chapter has not only for the chapter but also the college community and the community at large. They are truly embracing the fraternity's motto of culture for service and service to humanity."
Smith, who served as a seminar panelist, is also the president of Delta Epsilon Sigma.
"The graduate chapter members are extremely proud of the strides being made by our undergraduate brothers at The College of the Bahamas and their ability to effect change on campus," said Smith. "The chapter is ensuring future generations of Bahamians know about the business opportunities available to them."
The seminar was made possible through a public affairs section grant from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau and partial sponsorship from BTC.
The Beta Beta Lambda chapter was the first black Greek lettered organization chartered on the campus and is celebrating 10 years of existence. The chapter was chartered November 5, 2004.

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Keno Turnquest.

November 12, 2014

Now as we all know, people are indeed living much longer these days than they used to in times gone by. That's right, when I was a young boy growing up in Ireland, most people like my relatives for example, usually died in their late 60s or early 70s. Today, 60-year-olds are extremely active and most do not look their age at all.
You see, age just like everything else, is a mental attitude. That's right, as we used to say, "You're only as old as you feel." Well, that is indeed true as everything in life is an attitude of mind. We have a saying in The Bahamas where I reside which really sums this whole matter of age up real well, and it goes like this, "Age ain't nuthin' but a number." Oh how absolutely true that is.
In Dr. Deepak Chopra's great book, which I'd highly recommend everyone read, titled "Ageless Body -- Timeless Mind" he states that we all have three ages, and these three ages are as follows. Number one -- our chronological age, that is the number of years we have been alive on planet earth; Number two -- our physiological age, that is what condition our physical body is in; And number three -- our psychological age, that is how old we feel we are. I'm sure we've all heard that well-known saying, that he or she is young at heart or young in spirit. This is exactly what I'm stating here today, and that is that your age, just like everything else is a state of mind.
Yes, there's no doubt about it whatsoever, if a person thinks young whilst of course taking real good care of their overall health of body, mind and spirit, they will indeed live to a ripe old age, as that well-known saying so aptly puts it. Of course, as far as I'm concerned, the recipe for remaining young at heart and thus continuing to enjoy one's life no matter what your chronological age is, is to always have a very definite purpose thus remaining both physically and mentally active at all times. We continue to always have some exciting goals and objectives that we're involved with to keep us excited about life and mentally alert. We also of course eat healthy and exercise regularly.

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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Turnquest becomes PGA professional

November 12, 2014

Keno Turnquest is officially the first Bahamian to achieve the prestigious British Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Professional Qualification.
Turnquest recently completed the three-year PGA initiation program at the organization's Belfry headquarters in the United Kingdom.
The degree involves working through study guides, assignments, residential weeks at the National Training Academy, exams and attaining coaching awards. Among the subjects studied are golf coaching, sports science, equipment technology, business management, marketing, golf rules and tournament administration.
"People think that it's all about golf, but they really teach you how to run a golf business," said Turnquest. "Basically, my extension is business on the whole, and they give you the skills to practically start a business from the ground up."
The course is mostly done online, but Turnquest had to travel two to three times each year to sit exams and complete residential weeks, which consisted of one-on-one meetings with professors about their expectations for the new semester.
"I have both a four-year degree and a two-year as well, and by far this has been the most difficult experience I have faced," he said. "The grading system in the U.K. is much more complicated than the one in the United States.
"The exams are filled with essay questions and no multiple choice, so you have to know what you're talking about, you can't walk in guessing. The fact that it's online with no one down your throat with reminders about assignments makes it that much tougher."
The program also required Turnquest to play in seven competitive events each year, and finish with results that were near the top of the field.
The newly qualified PGA affiliate noted that at times the physical and mental strain felt overwhelming, but he was able to get through with the help of friends and family.
"There were two or three distinct times I can remember saying that I can't do this, especially at the beginning of the last year" he said. "I can clearly remember saying that I need to postpone this. But after sitting up and saying to myself that this is what I asked for, and that nothing worth having comes easy, I was able to get through it.
"I have to thank my wife as well. She was the one that was saying that I needed to keep going and keep pushing. Also, I have to thank Damien Mitchell Moore, because without him none of this would be possible. He is a Class 'AA' in the certification that I obtained, and he had to sign off on the papers for me to do the program. He also served as an advisor to me and helped to nurture me along the way."
To be awarded "AA" status, members must maintain 100 CPD points in a rolling three-year period, by engaging in relevant professional development.
Now that Turnquest is qualified, with a minimum length of time served in the golf industry, he can submit an application to be awarded any one of four additional titles, which include advanced professional, fellow professional, advanced fellow professional and master professional.

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Rockets, Pros come up big in season openers

November 12, 2014

The New Providence Basketball Association (NPBA) hosted two games on Monday night at the A.F. Adderley Gymnasium.
In the opening game, the Pyramid Food Rockets defeated the Double R Services Ltd. Cleaners 90-88. And in the feature game, the Island Luck Pros took down the Rhythm Rebels 89-84.
David Taylor finished the game with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets. Jamal Knowles shot 8-13 from the field and finished with 16 points, while Prince Brennen came off the bench to add 14 points and seven rebounds.
Jamaris King led the way for the Cleaners with 19 points and eight rebounds. Dax Evans also added 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench in the loss.
The game went back and forth as both teams traded leads the entire contest. Both teams struggled from behind the three-point line shooting a combined 2-28 from long distance. The Cleaners managed to stay in the game despite losing the assist battle 22-11 and committing 28 turnovers.
Taylor managed to hit two big free throws at the end of the fourth for the Rockets; the Cleaners would have several chances to respond but failed to convert.
In the second contest, Adorn Charlow finished with a game high 25 points to lead the Pros. Dion McPhee chipped in with 18 points and six rebounds, and Kevin Wright added 11 off the bench.
Henry Burnside scored 25 points to lead the Rebels in the loss. Ricardo Smith and Kramer Taylor chipped in with 12 points each.
The Rebels looked to have the game sealed up when they outscored the Pros 28-15 in the third quarter and took a 68-55 lead. But behind Charlow, the Pros were able to chip away. They began to move the ball around quickly on the offensive end and outscored the Rebels 34-16 in the fourth quarter. With a few clutch baskets down the stretch, the Pros were able to hang on for the win.
NPBA action will continue tonight at 7:30 at the A.F. Adderley gym. In the opening game, the Y Cares Wreckers will take on the Real Deal Shockers, and at 9 p.m. the Commonwealth Bank Giants will go against the Patron Regulators.

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Former AG: Bilateral tax information approach correct

November 12, 2014

The Bahamas has committed to the automatic exchange of information for tax purposes on a bilateral basis with what the Ministry of Financial Services deems "parties who have demonstrated their ability to safeguard the information provided" beginning December 31, 2018. Former Attorney General John Delaney thinks it's the right move.
Initial statements out of the seventh Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, held in Berlin, Germany, from October 28-29, seemed to suggest that The Bahamas had signed a multilateral agreement called the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA), which deals with the automatic exchange of information (AEOI) for tax purposes.
Subsequent information from the Ministry of Financial Services made it clear that The Bahamas had not signed the MCAA - which would be, perhaps, out of character for the jurisdiction - but had instead formally adopted the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) AEOI standard". The Bahamas will implement the standard through bilateral treaties with appropriate partners.
A status report on jurisdictions that have either committed to the standard or not will be presented to G20 leaders during their annual summit in Brisbane, Australia on November 15-16.
Guardian Business spoke with former AG John Delaney about the prudence of adopting the standard in the first place. He said it was "not surprising" that The Bahamas had done so.
"International trade in financial services is precisely that - international trade," Delaney said. "If The Bahamas is committed to it, in essence, we have to be online with generally accepted and prevailing international standards."
He said this was the commitment which underpinned the government's position in 2002 when it made the first commitment to the OECD. On the matter of The Bahamas adopting the standard but opting to employ a bilateral as opposed to multilateral approach, Delaney said:
"In my view that is the correct approach for The Bahamas to have taken. The multilateral exchange would just give too much of an opportunity for things to be controlled in a responsible manner... having regard to issues of confidentiality, data safeguards and proper use of the information."
He pointed to recent incidents of misappropriated or stolen data, saying that it is all too easy for information to be misused.
"While one agrees to share information in appropriate circumstances, it's important that in assessing whether to share it, that it's going to remain confidential, it's going to be used for the purposes for which it is being shared and that it's safely kept," Delaney said.
The bilateral route, he said, gives The Bahamas an opportunity to ensure that any counterpart jurisdictions are able to use the information for the purposes for which The Bahamas intends to share it.
As for why the MCAA might not be in character for The Bahamas, Guardian Business understands that what the MCAA does is facilitate a standardized framework for agreement among various competent or relevant authorities in each jurisdiction. This seeks to ensure uniformity of approach.
What The Bahamas actually committed to was the Common Reporting Standard, which contains the principles on automatic exchange. This means that a country does not have to sign the MCAA to implement AEOI. One country may come to an agreement with another outside of the framework of the MCAA, once that agreement adheres to the principles of the Common Reporting Standard.

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Halkitis confident govt's fiscal plan will be successful

November 12, 2014

While acknowledging the seriousness of the recent warning from ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) that the country could face future downgrades should the government's implementation of value-added tax (VAT) not yield the projected results, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said he remains confident that the government's fiscal plan will be successful.
The government intends to implement VAT on January 1 and expects to collect $300 million in the first year.
In its latest research update, S&P warns that should VAT fail, The Bahamas could see its ratings fall below investment grade level, which would ultimately impact the country's borrowing power.
"Achieving the government's target of three percent of GDP in VAT revenues annually will be a key driver as to whether The Bahamas can meaningfully improve its fiscal balance and staunch downward pressure on the rating," the S&P report says.
The report adds that disappointment on the fiscal side or increased pressure on international reserves could lead to S&P lowering its rating by one or more notches.
But Halkitis said the Christie administration doesn't believe that will happen, despite continued resistance from some business owners over the new tax.
"Anything [S&P] says is a concern, but I would say this, in deriving our estimates of what revenue we will get from VAT, we had the benefit of extensive research by experts locally and internationally, and we have taken a very, very conservative approach to the revenue estimates that we put in the budget.
"... And secondly we are moving aggressively to put everything in place."
Halkitis noted that the government has a wider fiscal reform program, which includes growing the economy, collecting taxes and controlling expenditure.
"Each one of those elements working together are going to be very important as we move to improve our rating," the minister said.
"In their report, they make certain comments about what would be required for us to avoid further downgrades and to, in fact, have our ratings approved, and amongst those is the successful implementation of VAT, which we are committed to and are moving steadily ahead with. And also we have to ensure that our economy continues to grow."
The economy is estimated to grow by 2.1 percent in 2015.
And while Halkitis said the majority of businesses have come to terms with the government's plan, he said there are still some who are refusing to comply.
He noted that tax reform will always be a contentious issue.
"There will always be resistance from people who don't want to comply for various reasons. It might be philosophical; it might be they don't want to share information with government; it might be they are concerned about their business; it might be a natural fear of the unknown, or it might be a legitimate concern that they are not prepared to do it. But by and large, we have gotten support from business community."
Government officials estimated that the impact of VAT on the cost of living in the country should be no more than five percent.
Several observers have suggested that VAT will negatively impact the business community and consumer spending. But Halkitis said he believes the impact will be minimal."
He also pointed to the customs tariff reductions that will coincide with the introduction of VAT.
While the government has limited the number of goods it will apply custom rate reductions to, there are still dozens of items that will be reduced, including a variety of breadbasket items.
It will reduce the duty on over 20 categories of food items (from 10 percent to five percent), including meat, poultry, milk, cream, yogurt, cheese, curd, vegetables, fruits, nuts, coffee, tea, spices, pasta, jams, fruit juice, yeast and seasonings.
The Tariff Amendment Bill also listed duty reductions on over 100 items, including cameras (seven percent to duty free), watches (10 percent to duty free), refrigerators (25 percent to five percent), various types of apparel (25 percent to 20, and 35 percent to 20), footwear (25 percent to 20 percent), pharmaceutical goods (35 percent to 25 percent), and beauty and make-up products (45 percent to 35 percent).
Several types of building materials will be duty free or will have the custom rate applied to them cut by 50 percent.
Appliances such as refrigerators, freezers and other refrigerating equipment, which currently attract 25 percent duty, will be decreased to five percent.
The rate for the importation of clothes will be decreased from 25 percent to five percent.
Halkitis said he is confident that the government has found the "right formula" for fiscal reform and encouraged those business that are required to register for VAT to do so.
Only about 15 percent of businesses have registered, but Halkitis said the numbers are picking up.

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Govt invites players in pay TV, broadband

November 12, 2014

Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson told attendees at the Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Busan, Korea, that in addition to the cellular/mobile market, the government wants to see more competition across the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, particularly in the markets for pay TV and broadband.
"The Bahamas would welcome the entry of additional players in any area of our electronic communications market, and would be particularly receptive to those willing to partner with Bahamians in bringing enhanced technologies and increased competition, which will translate into educational, employment, entrepreneurial and growth opportunities for our citizens," Maynard-Gibson said.
On the matter of liberalization of the mobile sector, the attorney general said that invitations for licences to operate cellular/mobile networks in The Bahamas are "imminent", as she laid out the government's ICT strategy.
Referencing the April 2014 electronic communications sector policy, which she said outlines critical policies for the growth and development of ICT within The Bahamas, Maynard-Gibson anticipated the breaking of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company's (BTC) monopoly in cellular services as a means of boosting competitiveness.
"A key thrust of our domestic policy is aimed at enabling and fostering greater access to world-class electronic communications services throughout the islands of The Bahamas," the attorney general said.
Among the targeted objectives of the policy are: The provision of a specified basic level of electronic communications services to all populated areas at affordable prices and free of charge to certain institutions of social and educational importance; ensuring that key institutions in the public and private sectors have access to domestic and international electronic communications, which are capable of withstanding natural disasters and which support the essential governance, social and economic institutions, and ensuring the availability of reliable, reasonably-priced broadband Internet access to residents and visitors.
She also said the policy aims to ensure the use of ICT in the delivery of health, education and government services, which is essential in an archipelagic nation.
"The government of The Bahamas has commenced a number of bold initiatives to achieve these goals, including taking steps to remove existing monopolies or exclusive access within the cellular/mobile sector," Maynard-Gibson said. "It is recognized that competition is the most effective method to obtain world-class service at affordable prices. The liberalization process is ongoing and the government will imminently invite interested persons or entities to apply for the appropriate licences to operate cellular mobile networks in The Bahamas."
She said The Bahamas is "well-poised to accommodate an open and competitive cellular market and to implement this development in an effective, expedited and transparent manner", noting that every market except cellular has been open to competition since 2009.
"The government has also established administrative machinery to expedite the approvals process for new cellular mobile networks. It is intended that new providers should become operational in the shortest possible time," she advised.
Maynard-Gibson led a Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) delegation to the Plenipotentiary Conference. The ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for ICT and the Plenipotentiary Conference is the key event at which ITU member states (193 countries, including The Bahamas) decide on the future role of the organization, thereby determining the organization's ability to influence and affect the development of ICT worldwide.

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