Nassau Guardian Stories

Airline rep: Only 14 Envoy Air workers to be rehired

April 19, 2015

The looming redundancies of 48 Envoy Air employees, due to take effect next month, are "a grave injustice", according to the airline workers union president, as the number of post-downsizing vacancies at the airline dwindles.
Envoy Air formerly operated as American Eagle.
Airport Airline and Allied Workers Union (AAAWU) President Nelerene Harding told Guardian Business that the number of jobs available once American Airlines resumes control of operations in Nassau had dropped substantially in the past week. Contrary to earlier estimates from the director of labor, an American Airlines representative confirmed that only 14 vacancies would be made available.
"The director of labor confirmed to me when he came out of the meeting that there were 12 positions that they would continue for British Airways and nine vacancies for American. Excluding that, they would've had 12 persons that would've opted to retire. Now, we're seeing that number decrease. That is a grave injustice," Harding said.
In an e-mail to Guardian Business, Laura Masvidal, American Airlines communications representative for Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America, confirmed that the airline would only offer 14 vacancies for the 48 Envoy employees affected by redundancies following American Airline's merger with US Airways.
"As part of its ongoing integration of airport operations following its merger with US Airways, effective May 1, 2015, American Airlines' operations in Nassau will be handled by American Airlines. The airline's operations are currently handled by Envoy.
"As a result of this change, 48 Envoy employees will be affected. All of the affected employees were given the opportunity to voluntarily apply for 14 vacant positions in American Airlines. Effective May 1, 2015, those 14 Envoy employees will be re-hired as American Airlines employees. All Envoy employees affected by this change can be considered as external hires for any open positions," read the statement.
Aside from the redundancies, Harding said that she had already appealed to the director and minister of labor to revisit the country's redundancy laws to prevent what she considers further exploitation of Bahamian employees by foreign companies.
Harding argued that the government gave foreign companies strong incentives with little penalty for redundancies under the current labor laws, stating: "The employer leaves with all of their profits, but for the employees, their years of service just means nothing at the end of the day."
As it stands, the Employment Act sets a 12-year limit on redundancy payments for both managerial and line staff. The law provides managerial staff with one month's salary for each year of employment up to 12 years, while line staff receive a month's salary for every two years of employment up to the 12-year limit upon redundancy.
"It is so sad to see," she said.
Masvidal's statement confirmed that the downsizing would not have an impact on the airline's number of routes into Nassau. The airline currently offers flights into Nassau, Marsh Harbour, Eleuthera, Freeport and Georgetown.
"We have a firm commitment to The Bahamas and its people and our objective is to work together to continue increasing passenger traffic to the islands. Through this process, American is adhering to all labor laws in the Bahamas," said Masvidal.

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Pedro Rolle: Govt's family island initiatives still too 'Nassau-centric'

April 19, 2015

Despite the best of intentions, several initiatives designed to stimulate family island economies could fail to deliver due to a lack of local direction and overly "Nassau-centric" management, according to Exuma Chamber of Commerce President Pedro Rolle.
Speaking at the National Conclave of Chambers of Commerce in The Bahamas last week, Rolle argued that "wonderful ideas" only went so far in the absence of local management, which had remained underutilized by the public and private sectors.
"The challenge is that you can't just come to a Family Island, have a little dialogue, then leave and think that it's going to be self-sustaining. Someone has to be on the ground to ensure that there is follow-up or someone to relate to on the ground.
"All of these programs, every single one they're
talking about, are too Nassau-centric. You come up with these wonderful, properly funded ideas but they can't be executed properly because on the ground level no one is there to walk you through and talk to the people everyday when they have challenges," Rolle said.
He highlighted the potential economic impact of an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) initiative and a Bahamas Geotourism Stewardship Council initiative. Both aim to better promote family island businesses and authentic activities through a strengthened web presence.
Although Rolle said that both projects had admirable goals, he believes that both initiatives would benefit from greater local management to ensure swift responses to island-specific concerns.
Rolle noted that the conclave was "indispensable" in bringing together the heads of respective family island chambers to address individual and widespread challenges facing family island economies. Despite Exuma's unique challenges, Rolle said that most Family Islands shared similar grievances, namely a lack of reliable airlift and long government reach in local affairs.
However, he believes that the lack of adequate local direction is not limited to such programs, accusing the central government of hindering family island economic growth by not divesting certain powers to local communities.
"The government seems to be committed to keeping the reins of authority. We continue to do the same thing the same way without getting any result. None of these things are going to succeed if they are not pushed and governed at the local level.
"If you want to see real growth and development in all of these various communities then empower the local people to do it and watch as it grows," he said.

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Household expenditure in 2014: 6.2 billion

April 19, 2015

Household expenditure in the Bahamian economy in 2014 was an estimated $6.2 billion, with close to $2 billion each spent on housing (including rent) and trade - both wholesale and retail - according to figures from the Department of Statistics.
The one percent or so growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014 masks a complex set of numbers that detail changes in the economy over the last four years, including a smaller economic impact from agriculture and fisheries - particularly fisheries - and a sharp bump in the economic impact of the construction industry.
The Department of Statistics released the figures late last week, ahead of the release of the National
Accounts 2014 report later this month. The numbers show that the GDP grew by 0.93 percent in current prices and by 1.02 percent in constant 2006 prices. The current measure utilizes current price levels and currency values, without factoring in inflation; it also determines the total value of the products and services produced in a particular year. The "constant prices" measures the effects of inflation and is more useful for studying trends in economic growth.
The 2014 GDP figures are preliminary and will be revised as more data become available.

Household expenditure
The release reports on the output of the economy in some detail, and one measure of note is the private final consumption expenditure (PFCE) - or household expenditure - which on average accounts for 70 percent of the GDP.
Between 2010 and 2014, household expenditure grew from $5.4 billion to $6.2 billion, possibly reflecting rising prices.
The figure included $1.7 billion expenditure on housing and $1.8 billion on wholesale and retail trade. Expenditure on hotel and restaurant was $300 million.
The figures show $676 million spent on utilities, which included electricity, cable and communications including cell phones.
Non-educational and non-health-related expenditure abroad was $100 million, while spending on education and health - including for children abroad at school - was $444 million.
Financial intermediation, which includes insurance and banking, was $534 million, and spending on non-profit organizations, which includes charities, totaled $87 million.
Construction spending continued to grow, with non-residential construction - driven largely by Baha Mar and other hotel spending - grew by 21.6 percent to total over $706 million. Plus, residential construction, which the department estimates to be driven by growth in the level of construction services imported. Residential construction, estimated based on the value of the Central Bank's Residential Mortgage Commitment on New Construction, also grew by double digits, standing at $248 million.

Gross value added - Industrial origin
Traditional measures divide an economy into four segments: firstly, the extraction and harvesting of natural products from the earth (agriculture, mining and forestry); then processing, manufacturing and construction; services, such as retail sales, entertainment and financial services; and finally intellectual pursuits, like education.
The Department of Statistics results are based on early estimates from major data sources such as the Central Bank, Ministry of Tourism and the Foreign Trade Section of the Department of Statistics. They are also based on indicators which normally mimic movements of particular industries such as hotel room rates, megawatt sales, building permits, chargeable telephone minutes and consumer price index.
The department also released disaggregated figures, which reveal how the impact of certain sectors of the economy is either changing or remaining stable. For instance, between 2010 and 2014, the gross value added (GVA) to the economy from agriculture and fisheries dropped from over $170 million to $140 million. Breaking the figures down, however, shows the agriculture sector steadily hovering between $60 million and $65 million, but the fisheries sector dropping from $107 million in 2010 to just over $80 million in 2014.
Also, in 2010, GVA from construction was just under $648 million. In 2014, it was just over $1 billion.

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Virtual platform connecting craft vendors to world market

April 19, 2015

A program designed to expand market access for family island handicraft vendors could lead to a "proliferation of opportunities" for young Bahamians, according to Don Demeritte, project
coordinator for the Bahamas Virtual Platform (BVP).
The pilot program, designed to promote the handicrafts industry and increase utilization of artistic vendors by exposing value chain companies to a global market to propel their sales, hopes to attract 60,000 annual customers, which Demeritte believed was "very achievable," with the BVP potentially taking $20 per sale to sustain itself and continue its marketing efforts.
"Our projections were simple. We knew from our market research that it was easy for us to [attract] 60,000 customers to this e-commerce platform. Markets that some of the Family Islands, particularly Acklins and Mayaguana, never had access to.
"You're talking about exploiting and expanding upon something you already have. The only difference is that they needed a new market and they needed to speak about strategies," said Demeritte.
The Inter-American Development Bank sponsored the project, which is currently focused on the MICAL constituency (Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, and Long Cay).
Demeritte said that the BVP had achieved strong results in collaborating between the handicraft markets of respective Family Islands to provide a "conduit" to the international market.
Statistics provided by the BPV revealed that 91 percent of surveyed vendors were women while 80 percent of vendors were over the age of 50, which Demeritte argued presented clear opportunities for young entrepreneurs in the handicraft industry.
"It's a story that needs to be told. It's a story that should've been shared with every chamber representative for the past four to five years because it leads to opportunity and it speaks to developing something that already exists.
"Why it isn't happening and why it isn't happening quick enough, nobody knows. But the chambers are advocates," he said.
Demeritte said that the prevalence of foreign-made handicrafts spoke to the need for greater transparency and accountability in the national handicraft industry, and suggested that the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) conduct longevity studies of the industry to ensure authenticity.
"Every artisan would have a unique user ID so that any product that left The Bahamas would be stamped and we'd know exactly who delivered it, where it came from, and so on. That speaks to accountability and authenticity, and that's something that no other program [recently] speaks to.
"We need to champion the cause. This speaks to concrete jobs, thousands of jobs, that impact every island in The Bahamas. If we had one-tenth the budget of the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival the results would be exponentially better," Demeritte said.

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GBPA president renews demand for immigration reform

April 19, 2015

Freeport's population could increase nearly 20 percent over the next decade through a revamped immigration policy designed to attract small business owners, according to Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) President Ian Rolle.
Speaking at last week's second annual National Conclave of Chambers of Commerce in The Bahamas, Rolle stated that the GBPA hopes to increase Freeport's permanent residents from 55,000 in 2014 up to 65,000 in 2024 through the establishment of an economic resident status for foreigners purchasing local small businesses.
The move, Rolle argued, would shape Freeport's small businesses into commodity items and provide Grand Bahamians with a larger market to sell their small businesses, simultaneously encouraging immigration to the struggling economy while benefiting local small business owners.
"We need the help of the government of The Bahamas. In order to accomplish this goal we will need to tweak our immigration policies. We need the possibility of allowing a person who purchases a business or residence for $500,000 or more to be granted economic residence status, meaning giving them the right to work in their own business, and also granting that same right automatically to family members," said Rolle.
He believes that Grand Bahama would receive an influx of skilled workers and business owners coming from high tax zones and areas prone to religious victimization or political turmoil.
"We have a lot of small businesses in The Bahamas, and it's very difficult to sell your business. I want to make a small business a commodity item, so the local persons now have a bigger market to sell their particular small businesses," he said.
Regarding the current Grand Bahama business community, Rolle touched on the work of the GBPA's Invest Grand Bahama Small Business Bureau in providing small businesses with needed resources and information, though Rolle previously told Guardian Business that access to capital remains the greatest challenge facing micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Freeport.
Rolle is hardly the first to demand immigration reform in Grand Bahama. Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Seymour has repeatedly spoken out against what he described as a "xenophobic" and "time consuming" national immigration policy, arguing that the policy needs to be relaxed for skilled workers, if Freeport is to ever live up to its potential.
With an increase in residency, Rolle hopes to further develop Freeport and Grand Bahama's tourism sector alongside its small business market by creating a better cruise arrival experience and introducing more attractions.
While 1.4 million tourists visited the island in 2014, Rolle said that he hopes to see the number double within the next five years.

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Immigration reserve a 'recipe for catastrophe', senator says

April 19, 2015

Shadow Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture and Free National Movement (FNM) Senator Lanisha Rolle has dubbed the creation of the Immigration Reserve Corps a recipe "for catastrophe", and instead recommended the outright hiring of young people as full-fledged immigration officers.
She made the recommendation as she expressed her concerns about the Immigration Amendment Bill 2014 debated by the Senate late last week.The bill has four functions: One of its primary functions is to establish the immigration reserve corps.
Rolle took particular issue with the establishment of the immigration reserve, which she hoped was "not an attempt to create another sector of political spies or cronies".
"While this category of support is needed in the police force, considering that our murder rate is reportedly up by 30 percent, unless this government can justify the need to add this category of support to the Immigration Department I say this potential threat to privacy is really uncalled for, and I simply have to question the motive and the rational of this proposal," she said.
"I believe that this is too much allocation of power, and unnecessary expansion of the armed forces... It creates or is likely to create an excessive amount of members of the armed forces in a small country with a small group of people," she added.
Rolle also attacked the idea on the grounds that "this unwarranted and unjustified addition of immigration reserves has the potential to create an atmosphere of further intimidation on members of the public, many of whom are legitimate guests of our country and who have legitimately complained about so many instances of extortion and misuse of powers by those given the power to wield them... To my mind, this proposal from a national security and democracy standpoint is dangerous."
The shadow minister also questioned the government as to why it would create another avenue for persons who have jobs to obtain a second job, "when the fact is the unemployed young people of this country can't find one".
"Moreover, why would this government propose to create a situation whereas it is in the police reserve, we will have people putting their lives on the line for pennies with no real benefits or protection as a full pledged employee in a high risk sector? To my mind, this amounts once again to irresponsible governance, and this proposal of an immigration reserve is, in my opinion, a recipe for catastrophe," she said.
"I believe, this immigration reserve proposal is only submitted by this government as a means to sell another dream to Bahamians that they are making provisions for more jobs, but more jobs for who, and under what conditions, and at what cost? The only people who will suffer under these hardship employment conditions are average, hard-working Bahamians."
Rolle recommended that instead of what she labelled a "short-sighted approach", the government should consider hiring young people and the jobless in our society who need permanent and pensionable jobs, as full-fledged immigration officers.
"This recommendation should be the thinking of a government that wants to truly give its citizens a slice of the pie, not the crumbs. This reserve idea is economically counter-productive in substance," she said.

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Private sector growth needed for economy to grow

April 19, 2015

Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle has given his diagnosis: Private sector growth and development is the key, he said, to jumpstarting the Bahamian economy.
Speaking to business leaders during the recent National Conclave of Chambers of Commerce in The Bahamas at Melia Nassau Beach resort, Rolle said the path to private sector growth and development is the improvement of the business environment, which requires improvements in labor quality and concerted bureaucratic reform.
The National Development Plan - Vision Bahamas 2040 is important to this process, he said, in that it would help create a proper understanding of the real issues at play and help develop effective, targeted strategies that could be implemented effectively.
Rolle noted that the labor force is just under 198,000. Of that number, 169,000 are employed and 29,000 are unemployed (a rate of 14.3 percent). Given the 5,000 new entrants to the workforce annually from schools and that government employment is just under 19,000 (9.6 percent), Rolle said there is a limited capacity to absorb a greater proportion of the labor force.
He said 90.4 percent of the labor force works in the private sector and therefore future job growth depends on the success of the private sector.

Supply of quality labor
The minister also addressed the supply of quality labor.
From the public sector, he said, educational outcomes must be improved and labor market regulation must be balanced to ensure productivity, protection and fairness. From a social policy perspective, the focus must be on creating an environment for the future labor force to learn and to be productive.
He said the private sector must concentrate its efforts on increased in-house training and increased corporate social responsibility, and the family unit must see a cultural shift to a greater value placed on education and life-long learning and productivity.

Challenges doing business
The minister also gave a survey of some of the ways in which The Bahamas, as a jurisdiction for doing business, continues to slide.
For instance, when it comes to starting a business, Rolle noted a continued decline in the rankings, now at #95 in 2015 from #88 in 2014. Since 2008, he said, there has been no change in the procedures. Starting a business still requires seven steps. On a positive note, he reported that the time to start a business has improved from one month to just over three weeks. However, there has been no real change in cost from 2008.
"The Bahamas has not deteriorated from 2008, but has not made significant improvements. Other countries have made those improvements, which has resulted in The Bahamas' decline in ranking," Rolle said. "Improvements in this indicator are on the near horizon with the automation of certain RGD (Registrar General's Department) processes."
Another critical challenge is dealing with construction permits.
The Bahamas declined in ranking to #92 in 2015 from #88 in 2014.
Again, Rolle noted, there has been no change in number of the procedures (still at 14) or the time to complete the transaction (still at 178 days). However, the cost to complete the transaction has increased slightly, and the minister cited a small deterioration in the overall effectiveness of the process as indicated by the distance to the frontier (DTF) score.
Rolle said there is a need to evaluate processes to see what can be done better and what procedures are unnecessary, pointing out that - again - The Bahamas is losing ground to other countries which are making strides in this area.
When it comes to getting electricity, again, The Bahamas has lost ranking to other countries doing what needs to be done. Since last year, there has been no change in process or time improvements (over 60 days).
"The time frame for the preliminary processes to get electricity needs to be shortened and there needs to be stronger coordination with the Ministry of Works and BEC (Bahamas Electricity Corporation)," he said.
"We need to examine the process and resource requirements to make the improvements."
On registering property, The Bahamas ranked very low at #179.
As Rolle noted, that is a "very far distance to what the top countries are doing".
Again, there has been no change in procedures, time or cost (122 days), although Rolle forecast improvements coming with certain RGD automations.
"Improvements in this indicator will come from improvements in the title/cadastral systems and the recording process at the RGD," he said. "[There must be] targeted effort to reduce the 120 days it takes to register property in The Bahamas.

Overall doing business priorities
Rolle said there must be priority given to reform of processes dealing with registering property (#179), dealing with construction permits (#92), trading across borders (#63) and getting electricity (#50).
He cited the need for continued process improvements in paying taxes (#31) and the need for both process and legislative reform in enforcement of contracts (#125).
As for protecting minority investors (#141) and resolving insolvency (#60), Rolle said there needs to be legislative reform.
For getting credit (#131), he said, institutional reform is necessary.

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Western European countries facing higher tax burden

April 19, 2015

Western European countries are inhibiting their economies with tax burdens at least 40 percent heavier than both the global average and the average for neighboring countries in Central and Eastern Europe, according to research by UHY, the international accounting and consultancy network.
In the "Old European" economies of Western Europe, the total amount of taxes taken by governments is an average of 38.9 percent of GDP, 40 percent higher than the 27.8 percent global average and higher still than the 25.9 percent average tax burden across Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
In the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies, the proportion of the economy claimed by the government in taxes is even lower, at an average of 21.7 percent, while the U.S. government's take from the economy is below the global average at 25.4 percent.
UHY examined 53 economies around the world, calculating what percentage of that country's GDP is taken by the government in taxes.
Oil-rich Nigeria has one of lowest tax burdens of any major economy at 1.6 percent of GDP, even lower than in the UAE, where government levies on foreign oil producers, banks and some hotel and leisure businesses account for 2.7 percent of the Emirates' combined GDP.
The highest tax burden in the study was in Denmark, where the total amount of tax revenue taken equates to nearly half of the country's GDP at 48.6 percent.
UHY says that Western Europe's higher taxes on businesses, individuals, investors and consumer spending could all inhibit growth. Higher taxes reduce incentives for investment and wealth creation and prompt larger businesses to maximize returns for their investors by seeking out lower tax bases for their operations.
In particular, Western Europe's economies could be vulnerable to international rivals that are increasingly able to offer a combination of stable legal systems and highly skilled workforces.
For example, the UAE and Singapore with tax burdens of 2.7 percent and 15 percent, respectively, are enjoying significant success in attracting corporate headquarters and professional and financial services companies, all creators of high skill, highly paid jobs.
The Dubai International Financial Services has grown in the last 10 years to 1,100 companies, 70 percent of which originate from outside the Middle East, while Singapore is now home to over 200 banks and has growing expertise in other high value sectors, including pharmaceuticals and medical technology.
Eastern European and Balkan countries are focusing on developing their industrial and manufacturing industries, offering lower taxes and lower costs than traditional Western European centers. For example, Romania enjoyed 2.9 percent GDP growth last year, largely driven by expansion in its industrial and communications sectors. It is becoming a growing center for the auto manufacturing industry, with Daimler, Ford and Draexlmaier all choosing Romania over Germany for new plants in recent years.
Ladislav Hornan, chairman of UHY, commented: "Unless they address their tax burdens, many Western European countries could find themselves pinched between lower cost, lower tax Eastern European countries that are able to offer equally strong manufacturing skills bases, and global cities like Singapore, Dubai and Qatar, that are consciously targeting the industries that create the most wealth."
UHY point out that, within Western Europe, Ireland, has the lowest tax burden at 28.3 percent of GDP. Its lower taxes are a key part of its strategy of attracting high value industries such as financial services and technology companies. Dublin's International Financial Services Centre is estimated to contribute over seven percent of GDP with 35,000 employees, while Ireland is a major European base for nine of the top 10 global software companies.
Alan Farrelly of UHY Farrelly Dawe White Limited in Ireland said: "While still relatively high by global standards, Ireland's tax burden is significantly lower than in most of Western Europe. This is strategy that appears to be paying off. The Irish economy grew by 4.8 percent in 2014, the fastest rate in the EU, and Ireland is attracting significant levels of foreign investment - it is the number one destination for U.S. foreign direct investment."
UHY added that the BRIC economies impose bigger tax burdens than other, smaller emerging economies, which could see emerging markets investors looking beyond the BRICs for growth. Tax amounts to an average of 21.7 percent of the BRIC economies, compared to 15.1 percent across the lower income emerging economies in the study, which include Nigeria, UAE, Puerto Rico, Egypt, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Argentina, Romania, Croatia, Uruguay, Jamaica and Barbados.
Hornan added, "Analysts have been keen to coin all sorts of rival acronyms to the BRICs, and one reason may be that the tax burden in the BRICs, especially Brazil, is relatively high."
"For China, as economic growth starts to slow and the country gradually loses its cost advantage, especially compared with other Asian countries, the conundrum of whether and how to lower the tax burden will start to loom larger."
John Bain, UHY's Bahamian representative added, "The figures for The Bahamas are 16.4 percent, 16.2 percent and 14.8 percent for the years ending 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively (the extent of the available data). In our opinion, The Bahamas fared well, and offered a low tax burden as a function of the GDP, especially compared to Europe, Barbados, the U.S. and Jamaica. We are very competitive in the Caribbean and Americas, but our figures only cover up to the years ended 2013. We do not expect to feel the impact of VAT until after June 2016, which will allow us some time to assess the changes in the amounts calculated for the tax as a percentage of GDP. If our GDP increases during 2015 and 2016, then this may offset any effects on the tax percentage. If GDP does not significantly increase, I think it is fair to assume an increase in the percentages of taxes to GDP. In the Americas, Puerto Rico scored the lowest at 7.6 percent, but remember that Puerto Rico is implementing VAT shortly, which is expected to affect their percentage of tax to GDP. The low tax to GDP ratio puts The Bahamas in a leading position to continue to attract foreign investment dollars, but these statistics indicate that a watchful eye should always be placed on the amount of taxes imposed in order for the country to remain competitive."

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Student leaders inspire action at BREEF environment summit

April 19, 2015

Seventy young environmental leaders from around The Bahamas gathered to take part in the first ever Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) Eco-Schools Youth Environmental Leadership Summit. The two-day summit was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Nassau and held at the New Providence Community Centre (NPCC). Student environmental leaders joined the two-day summit from 18 schools from Abaco, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and New Providence. All of these young people are taking action for the environment through Eco-Schools - an international sustainable schools program that BREEF runs in The Bahamas.
Minister of the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett brought welcome remarks congratulating BREEF and stating "all young people should be learning about environmental sustainability, and eco-schools need to be a model for all schools in the country". BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert thanked the U.S. Embassy for being the lead sponsor of this environmental summit and expressed her appreciation for the support of partner organizations NPCC and the Ministry of Tourism. Many other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations and local businesses provided in-kind support for the summit and ongoing support for schools.
Participating students of all ages came from public and private schools around the country. These schools are now part of a global network; they are engaged in solving real-world environmental issues faced by their communities through the investigation of themes including energy, waste, water, biodiversity, climate change and healthy living. At the summit, they shared ideas and networked with other students from across the country.
Students from Green Flag-awarded schools gave presentations on the activities that they are doing to protect the environment including up-cycling waste items to create art, growing native plant gardens and installing solar panels. Of great interest for all, several schools demonstrated how their actions saved money by reducing their school's consumption of energy and water. To build on energy conservation and the link with climate change, Dorsett explained that with the implementation of the amended Electricity Act, in effect as of last week, members of the public, including schools, are now able to connect to the grid and receive credit for electricity generated by alternative means. This was met with great excitement by the students.
Workshop participants learned about careers in environmental fields through field trips, a career panel and an exhibition by local businesses, government agencies and NGOs.
"It was awesome to learn about opportunities within Eco-Schools and the careers pathway that being a eco club member can lead to," stated ninth grade student Tavoughnya Thompson from Preston H Albury High School, Eleuthera.

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Johnny Kemp found dead

April 17, 2015

Bahamian entertainer and music legend Johnny Kemp is dead. He was 55.
Kemp, who had hits such as 'Just Got Paid', 'Just Another Lover' and 'Birthday Suit', died in Jamaica, his family said...

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PLP to hold convention after Baha Mar opening

April 17, 2015

Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts said the party still intends to hold a convention this year and will do so as soon as Baha Mar opens its doors.
Roberts told The Guardian on Thursday that his team had just met to discuss the convention.
He said the PLP wants to be the first party to hold a convention at the multi-billion dollar resort.
On Tuesday, Baha Mar Senior Vice President of Administration and External Affairs Robert Sands was unable to say when the resort will open.
Baha Mar was set to open on March 27, but was delayed until the first week of May.
It was originally scheduled to open last December.
When asked about the new date for the mega resort to open, Sands said officials have announced the project is delayed, but suggested a new date for the resort's opening has not been set.
The PLP was originally scheduled to have its convention in 2013, but it was postponed until November 2014.
In the meantime, the party held several mini conventions on the Family Islands.
The PLP last held a convention in October 2009.
The party is mandated by its constitution to hold a convention annually.

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Robbers pose as BEC workers

April 17, 2015

Two armed men posing as employees of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) robbed a woman outside her home on Thursday, police said.
According to police, the woman was at her home on Constitution Drive, off Farrington Road, when two gunmen robbed her of a small amount of cash and a set of keys before fleeing on foot.
Police said the men were dressed like BEC employees.
At last report, the men were still at large. Anyone with information is asked to contact police.
In a statement yesterday, BEC warned customers to always look out for employee identification.
"In all instances, BEC employees in contact with customers should have a corporation issued identification card with the person's name and photo attached," the statement said.
"Additionally, this card has unique identifiers including the company's logo and is endorsed by a company executive.
"Additionally, in most instances the individual may also be wearing an official uniform which is either a light blue or dark shirt embossed with BEC's logo and dark blue pants."

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AG says bail for murder is no death sentence

April 17, 2015

Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said she does not believe that granting bail to murder suspects is a "death sentence".
Maynard-Gibson was referring to the recent spate of murders involving young men recently released on bail.
In most of those cases, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade said those men were on bail for indictable offenses.
"I definitely do not think granting bail is a death sentence," Maynard-Gibson said in a recent interview.
"Having said that, I do note that there are persons who have been let out on bail who have committed further offenses or have been killed.
"I want to say we must not, in our country, throw out the baby with the bathwater. We must continue to recognize that it is the courts that make decisions about these matters."
Bishop Simeon Hall, who chaired the crime commission under the former government, has called on lawmakers to revisit the issue of bail as it has become a death sentence for countless young men in the country.
Hall said the rise in vigilante justice is growing.
"While we must denounce persons who take the law into their own hands, it is disconcerting that people have become so discouraged, untrusting of our judicial system, that they take the law into their own hands," Hall said.
Maynard-Gibson suggested that very few people have been granted bail for murder and murder related matters this year.
She said none were granted bail in January and two were granted bail in February.
"In those matters, they were granted [bail] because persons had been in prison for longer than three years," she said.
"I have not yet gotten the final statistics for March.
"It is very important for all of our citizens to take seriously the issue of witness intimidation.
"I think the assassination or murder of a witness, a person out on bail who may be a witness or in a matter, is extremely serious.
"We as citizens, if we would like to see our system work, have to take seriously this matter and ought to be reporting any knowledge any of us have about this offense.
"The system cannot work where witnesses are interfered with or intimidated."
Greenslade said this trend will not improve if people charged with serious crimes are allowed back into communities where they often reoffend.
In February, Maynard-Gibson said in 2014 there were 425 bail applications for murder. Of that number, only 33 applications were granted, she said.
Last year, parliamentarians passed the Bail Amendment Bill which aimed to "radically reduce" the number of incidents in which accused people can assert that their case was not tried within a reasonable period of time.

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Chipman: Speaker requested funds from govt for BAMSI public hearings

April 17, 2015

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Hubert Chipman said it is "troubling" that the House of Assembly cannot finance public hearings of the PAC's planned probe of the Bahamas Agriculture Marine Resources and Science Institute (BAMSI).
Chipman requested public hearings "on the circumstances and facts surrounding the execution and construction of the BAMSI project" in the House of Assembly on March 18.
"I've written to (House of Assembly) Speaker (Dr. Kendal Major) who has now since written to the prime minster," Chipman said this week.
"What is troubling about this is the speaker does not have within his budget the money to accommodate public hearings so he has to get permission from the prime minister in order finance a public hearing.
"We want a public hearing for all to see and so the Family Island people can see what's going on.
"I think everyone is concerned with what's happening at BAMSI and this only came about on January 15 as a result of the fire and there has been a lot of talk in the public domain and we just need to get the bottom of it. And we will do it publicly."
Major confirmed on Wednesday that he wrote a letter to Christie.
It is unclear whether Christie responded to the request for funds.
Controversy surrounding the BAMSI project erupted after it was revealed that the male dorm, which was destroyed during that fire, was not insured, as is required by the Ministry of Works, prior to the mobilization of contract funds.
Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis previously said that at the time the government signed the contract with contractor Audley Hanna, he presented an insurance quote from Royal Star Assurance.
However, he never paid the insurance premiums.
When Chipman addressed the controversy in the House of Assembly in March he said the people of The Bahamas need answers.
"The democracy demands that those responsible for the BAMSI saga answer to the pubic and answer in the public hearing," Chipman said.
"There are numerous unanswered questions, which were only multiplied after the recent statement made by the deputy prime minister and member for Cat Island and San Salvador.
"We in the opposition demand answers. The press demands answers. But above all the public and the people of The Bahamas demand and deserve answers.
"The information which has been revealed to date suggests that grave breaches of protocol have occurred which had resulted in substantial loss of funds to the public purse and unless addressed will continue to destroy the nation's faith in the system."
Chipman requested that the hearings be broadcast on radio and television.
Prime Minister Perry Christie previously suggested that the investigation would likely expose the culture of negligence within the Ministry of Works that spanned over several administrations.
The BAMSI dorm will cost $5.5 million to rebuild, according to Davis.
Davis said Hanna is liable for $2.5 million.
On February 16, Dave Dion Moxey, 50, was charged with setting fire to the dormitory.

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Man shot by police

April 17, 2015

Police shot a man in his leg after he pointed a handgun at them during a high-speed chase on Carmichael Road on Thursday, police reported.
According to reports, police were on patrol around 11 a.m. when they observed a green 1998 Mitsubishi Lancer driving in a dangerous manner on Carmichael Road near Faith Avenue.
Police attempted to stop the car but the men sped off, leading police in pursuit.
During the chase, the Lancer slowed down on Golden Isles Road where the passenger pointed a handgun at officers, police said.
Police, in fear of their lives, shot at the gunman.
The Lancer then sped off until it stopped in Excellence Estates in Carmichael Road.
Police arrested the driver, but the passenger ran into nearby bushes.
During a short chase, the gunman was shot in the thigh and was arrested.
The inured man was transported to hospital where he was detained in stable condition.
The men, 26 and 21, were arrested for firearm possession.

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Bang, bang, bang - the devil is busy

April 17, 2015

Dear Editor,
Don't question, don't change, don't' speak unless you are spoken to, don't ask any official why he did whatever he did.
Shots ring out as automatic weapons load and reload in a peaceful place. This small place knows no such weaponry, according to the government.
Bang, bang, bang, more shots and more shots ring out in the night air, covered by darkness, except for street lamps shining over ghetto roads, that are not so ghetto, except when compared to the luxury shine of the tourist town. Compared to that glitz and glamour, the imagined paradise, we are all poor, we all inhabit ghettos and we are all here for their pleasure.
Plog (1974) notes that "tourism contains the seeds of its own destruction, tourism can kill tourism, destroying the very environmental attractions which visitors come to a location to experience". Yet this is what our government wants. They sell us to the same devil who is busy, and then blame him when things go awry.
According to the leader, our economy is improving. The economy is growing. We are all doing better. Yet people cannot find money to pay BEC. Bang, bang, bang the bullets rain over our heads, the devil is busy!
Oliviera (2003) underlines that "the environment that attracts tourism and tourism investment can be destroyed by tourism and consequently, the loss of environmental quality can ultimately destroy tourism itself." As the automatic weapons spray bullets into the night sky on a quiet Friday evening in this wonderful small place, no one questions our culture of tourism and that tourism is our culture.
As the death toll rises and the bells ring out in the church yard, the undertakers rub their fat hands together, enjoying their spoils... the lights go off, the audits come in and they show that thousands of dollars are missing from public projects, the devil is busy! No one challenges when they say it's all the work of the devil.
Tourism is our savior. Sell your bounded loins to the almighty wrecking ball, and we shall all be freed from the Garden of Eden, this is all because the devil is busy and the government is not responsible for any bad, only the improvement of the economy, the increase in jobs and the better access to bank loans and mortgages as banks threaten to leave our sandy, sunshine-kissed shores and head to safer grounds. The devil is busy!
Silence is golden, said the government... seek not and you shall be led into the promised land of debt and starvation. The gunshots shall be your reward for your submission. Tranquility shall prevail once the criminals have shot through the peace of this small place, with fear and hatred. Color only hides the truth as we hide behind colors. But ask for guidance and you shall be told, the devil is busy creating chaos for good Christian servants who believe in only promoting the poor and downtrodden, and encouraging the youth -- just not to be journalists.
Silence... not a police siren wafting over the dark-night sky, yet the high-powered assault rifles blast that very same night sky, in my little corner of paradise. My little piece of rock is no enclave to tourism and prosperity. The weapons only pass through those gates and shoot only when they hit my ghetto, my youth, my people.
The economy is booming, says the leader, and the devil is busy, say the people in charge as the audit says money put on shoes, pants and a hat, and walked out of the public purse, directly through the darn front door.
What a time! The devil is busy...
Silence is golden and the devil is now busy among us. Yet we are told, the devil is busy. Why audit a company or organization run by the self-saving, people-protecting government? Why question the government? They are put here to serve and protect us. As the bullets fly through the night sky in my ghetto, police cars remain parked at a safe, far distance from the shots and I lay in my bed feeling the earth shake of the peace crumbling around me.
Tourism destroys, say the scholars. Tourism kills tourism, write the researchers. Money does not stay in the local community, the case of the Dominican Republic shows, as the poor people are pushed out of their fishing communities and further into poverty because they can no longer afford to buy or rent near the public fishing grounds - now property of the resort.
They can no longer fish, unless they can take their boats on their backs up the coast and set them in the water. Bahamians say, the devil is busy, is the only answer.
These people just too damn ungrateful as they malign and berate the hard work of the government, say the people in charge of the missing money. The leader says the economy is stronger than before, yet the people can't eat. The people can't pay their bills to keep their light on. More people everyday claiming social welfare, yet the leader says we are better off. Amen!
Do not question, says the leader. Lucifer was an angel once and talked better than everyone, yet how busy is the devil!
As we lose paradise to the self-destructive fangs of tourism, the economy is improving, our culture is packed in a suitcase, hidden behind a shiny window empty of soul but filled with glitz, in that window there are no natives, only those dressed like natives and performing our role in the musical of the year. The devil is busy!
The economy is healthy and the people can't pay their BEC bills. Never mind, the sound of machine gun fire filling that night air, this too shall pass as the rich sell you into the bowels of 40 more years of a very busy devil who is the answer to every ill. Our culture is packed in a suitcase and we are set sail on a rough sea of financial hell and violent suffering, but thy savior shall come in the name of development and therefore go thou as the savior destroys your environment and kills your culture. It's only that the devil is busy!
Close your ears to the shots fired from the high-powered assault weapon in the night streets of the east and open them to the silent police sirens that follow the din of bullets issuing from guns bigger than police pistols and more powerful than the poor devil who will always be busy dancing calypso under and around the greasy pole but who will never get caught because he is simply too busy... And we stand for that! But that devil will never tell you that the fish he is selling stink...
Wake up to the sound of guns shots and you will know the if the smell of stink fish is real as the devil is busy dancing away your national insurance money in rum and caviar, and tellin you, hush, the economy is stronger than it has been in years, it's only the haters sowing seeds of discontent and the devil bein' busy, pay no mind...
Bang bang bang, the devil is busy... and you believe that!?

- Ian Bethell-Bennett

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Christie's bridge to the future

April 17, 2015

The departure of Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder from the Cabinet at the end of last year sparked considerable public commentary. Reactions ranged from understanding in light of a "mind-blowing" private sector offer, to disappointment in seeing a public figure choose self above service.
Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said Pinder lacks confidence in the government's "sinking ship", while his deputy, Peter Turnquest, said the resignation is concerning given the current state of financial services in The Bahamas.
Turnquest added that the move exposed a "visible crack" in the government's self-titled bridge to the future, which he said seemed to be more of a bridge to the past.
"The prime minister has consistently spoken about his fabled bridge to the future; however this resignation highlights a serious crack in that bridge and the fundamental lack of confidence his ministers have in his leadership and his government's failure to promote young leaders within his government to substantive decision-making levels, instead of being constantly overshadowed and minded by returning senior civil servants and consultants to various ministries," Turnquest said. "This young generation must feel duped and used."
In fact, Pinder's departure follows a series of rifts between the PLP old guard and the much-touted generation of Young Turks, whom Christie said during the 2012 election campaign he was grooming to receive the baton of governance.
During the budget debate in July, several "cracks" were already visible. Marco City MP Gregory Moss criticized the plan to introduce value-added tax (VAT) as being against the principles of the PLP; Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins stood up for Moss, while Nassau Village MP and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly Dion Smith called into question the government's approach to dealing with issues like crime and poverty.
Then, another leading light in the new generation of PLP politicians, Renward Wells, was removed from his position as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Works over a controversial letter of intent he signed for a waste-to-energy contract. Many felt the government did not give a satisfactory explanation of this debacle, with several observers suggesting Wells was "thrown under the bus" by certain senior party members.
Generational relations became even more strained over the constitutional amendment bills, with Rollins resigning as party whip in August and calling for new leadership of the party.
Rollins blasted the government for appearing to use young politicians as "tokens" to help win the last election, but not wanting them to freely express their views.
As it currently stands, only a few of Christie's celebrated next generation can plausibly be said to enjoy good relations with the government. Most are conspicuously alienated from the party or, like Pinder, are removed from decision-making circles altogether.
The public must either demand that the prime minister work to repair his bridge, or look elsewhere politically for a viable link to the future. One thing is for certain, this country cannot endure more of the same for another election cycle.

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