Nassau Guardian Stories

CIBC FirstCaribbean CEO sees 'tremendous undeveloped potential' in Bahamas

June 25, 2015

Rik Parkhill, CEO of CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, said his institution is committing "a considerable amount of money" in The Bahamas in the short term, noting that he sees "tremendous undeveloped tourism potential" in the jurisdiction and that FCIB is actively seeking to partner with the government on infrastructure and other projects.
Parkhill spoke with Guardian Business on the sidelines of FCIB's third infrastructure conference, held in Montego Bay, Jamaica last week. He talked about the outlook of the bank in The Bahamas.
"In terms of the trends in banking, technology and mobile applications are becoming a bigger and bigger factor, and we're spending a considerable amount of money in The Bahamas in terms of upgrading our technology infrastructure, but also in terms of increasing services to customers.
"So over the next 16 months we're going to add about 100 ATMs regionally, and a considerable number of them will be going to The Bahamas. Some will be dual currency machines, and the next generation of ATMs are becoming more intelligent with more functions as well.
"From a retail banking perspective in The Bahamas, I think we're perhaps underrepresented in some areas of The Bahamas and we're looking to expand our footprint, which I think is a little bit different than some of our competitors," Parkhill said.
He noted that the bank consolidated its two branches in Freeport, Grand Bahama on March 31, 2014, and that the bank has no plans for any further consolidation.
"The way our retail banking setup looks, I don't think you're going to see any less branches over the short or medium term, but you're going to see a far stronger sales and financial advisory focus.
"So we have so many different ways people can process transactions, and as a bank, we would prefer that they utilize some of our electronic and Internet-based tools. We still will have transaction processing within branches but the branches are going to look more like sales, credit counseling and financial advisory centers," he said.
Parkhill also disclosed a new focus.
"We're turning around loan approvals faster and faster to the point where by the end of this year - at least in terms of less complex transactions - the average will be about 48 hours," he said. "We're starting to turn around car loans within that period of time.
"Part of the restructuring we went through, yes it was designed to cut costs and increase productivity, but it was also designed to simplify our processes, particularly by reducing the number of layers and approval processes that you need to go through to process a typical transaction or deal with a customer issue," he said.
Meanwhile, at the same conference, Marie Rodland-Allen, CIBC FirstCaribbean's managing director for The Bahamas, spoke to what she saw as necessary for the banking industry in The Bahamas.
"Growth. I would just say growth. The IMF just reduced its growth projections for The Bahamas. We have to get growing. I mean, 15.7 percent unemployment is not a low number. We have to get people back to work.
"I think we would like to see us get to the point where we're north of two percent growth," she said.

P3 Potential
Parkhill told Guardian Business he saw "tremendous undeveloped tourism potential, particularly in the Family Islands." He said this presented an opportunity on the infrastructure front.
"We're happy to work with the government of The Bahamas - or any other sponsor - in terms of making sure that there's appropriate infrastructure to accommodate any type of development on those islands. And we realize how costly it is to run The Bahamas as a country because it is so spread out geographically."
He said the bank was actively pursuing public/private partnerships with the Bahamas government and others in the region. Those discussions center on what is financeable, what the appropriate structure to increase the probability of getting a project financed might be, and bringing the private sector partners to meet with government.
"We're very open to working with governments on an advisory or financing basis - or both - and one of the issues that we have in The Bahamas is that we have a lot of excess liquidity at this point. I think among all the commercial banks, we tend to be the bank of choice for depositors and we would like to find incremental ways that we can deploy those deposits and earn a return, and infrastructure is so important from a competitive perspective as well as a quality of life perspective," he said.

FATCA
Parkhill also assured that the bank is prepared for the implementation of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
"We are. We've hit all of the milestones, and have an extensive project plan.
"The other thing that's worth pointing out is that in terms of customers that are U.S. citizens, they account for a very small number of our customers. The vast majority - even in the wealth area - are Caribbean nationals.
"I think the days of someone opening a bank account in the Caribbean who doesn't have specific ties to the region are over. So I suspect that customers that fit that profile - U.S. citizens to begin with are a small number of our total customers - and I suspect that most of the banks will adopt eventually the practice that we've adopted, and that is that you have to have a reason to be here to open a bank account," Parkhill said.
While he declined to comment on whether FATCA is an overreach by the United States, Parkhill did speak to the changing overall regulatory atmosphere.
"It's been a large project to make sure that we hit all of the milestones and are able to meet all of the requirements, but its an initiative, and there's obviously a legitimate public policy concern from governments all over the world that they want to maximize tax revenue and minimize tax leakage.
"I don't think it changes the way CIBC FirstCaribbean or its shareholders look at business in the Caribbean, because even in our wealth businesses we have relatively few non-Caribbean national customers and most of those people have been customers for a long time.
"So the segment of customers that don't have specific ties to the region, they're just not really a factor for us, and they haven't been viewed for a long time as a growth factor," he said.

Value-Added Tax (VAT)
Rodland-Allen acknowledged that VAT has had an effect on The Bahamas.
"I think it has. It's an increased cost, and so in order to be compliant, we also had to do some work. But the banking industry is no different from any other industry who is affected by VAT. Very few people are unscathed by it.
"But actually it's gone quite seamlessly, and I think that's because government did grant an extension, and so we were able to get everything organize. So in terms of implementation and educating our customers, it's been quite smooth," she said.
Parkhill pointed out that the bank has dealt with VAT in other Caribbean jurisdictions.
"So this wasn't exactly a new adaptation for us," he said.

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Gibson: Public service change too slow

June 25, 2015

Change in the public service has moved too slowly due to a resistant organizational culture which has been established over the years, according to Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson, who is also minister of the public service.
Gibson spoke yesterday at the Expert Group Meeting on Innovating Public Service Delivery for Sustainable Development, at the 2015 United Nations Public Service Forum Day and Awards, held in Medellin, Colombia. The meeting ends today.
Gibson said The Bahamas has experienced an exponential growth in the number, diversity and level of education of its citizenry over the last 42 years. He also cited "rapid transformations" to the landscapes with the development of mega-properties, and "dynamic changes" in the country's global relationships.
He also noted that of a population of approximately 380,000, about two-thirds reside on New Providence which is about 21 miles long and 7 miles wide.
In a nutshell, this sums up the complexity of the challenges facing The Bahamas as everything must be replicated on each island and the overcrowding of the capital must be addressed. These are all further compounded by the downturn in the global economy.
"In response to our growing needs, the public service has undergone many changes, but the tides of change must continue to flow. In the interest of sustainable national development, a dynamic and modern public service is essential to meet the changing demands and expectations of our society and those with whom we do business.
"Unfortunately, the public service has moved too slowly due to a resistant organizational culture which has been established over the years. Our Act, policies and processes are over 50 years old and we are still too paper bound.
"If we fail to address this problem in a more focused and comprehensive manner, the public service would simply not have the competencies to support a developing country. Therefore, this government is committed to addressing public service transformation with all urgency," he said.
Gibson said the government is also taking steps to increase the efficiency of the public sector through the creation of the National Development Plan, spearheaded by the Office of the Prime Minister. He said the plan would focus The Bahamas for the next 20 to 25 years in the areas of investment and development, recommend informed decisions about the best approaches for reaching our goals, align all government ministries and departments for consistency and coherence, shape the budget allocation and identify actions for the public sector.
"However, we recognize the need for a comprehensive review. That's why the government has obtained a consultancy by the Commonwealth Secretariat (COMSEC) to conduct a diagnostic study on upgrading and restructuring the public service," he said.
"The initial report indicated, among other things, that our strengths include the talent, resilience and innovative spirit of our people, our commitment to an improved public service, and the National Development Plan initiative which will be key as we move forward.
"The report also identified weaknesses including succession planning, training and development, management and leadership, outdated procedures, risk assessment and management, and policy development and integration - all of which contribute to what we now call "the hollow middle". That is, a dearth of competencies," he said.
Gibson said that in order to tackle this problem, all ministries will develop strategic plans, which will undoubtedly include the use of information technology, youth development, succession planning, and accessibility of information, quicker response times, customer service and requisite competencies for sustained development.
"We must also review and revise our Public Service Act and align our policies," he said. "Moreover, the prime minister is adamant that we begin a Public Service College to address the development of skills of senior management in the public service from permanent secretaries down, to fill the hollow middle."

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Lodge owner rips proposed new bonefishing regulations

June 25, 2015

A Long Island bonefishing lodge owner yesterday slammed proposed amendments to laws governing the local flats fishing industry, stating that The Bahamas could "kiss the industry goodbye" due to a suite of regulations that he said encourages favoritism and hinders industry competitiveness.
Nevin Knowles, operator of the Long Island Bonefishing Lodge, told Guardian Business that although he supports the introduction of measured permit fees for the creation of a conservation fund to protect the industry's longevity, the bureaucratic hurdles visitors would have to clear in order to legally fish in Bahamian waters ultimately only stand to "corrode" The Bahamas' international reputation as a premier bonefishing destination.
"If this legislation goes through, you will kiss the fly fishing industry in The Bahamas goodbye.
"We want everyone to pay a license [fee] so that we can have some money for protection and conservation. But if I'm a lodge owner and I have the authority to give you a license, another guide could come and restrict you... and that doesn't make any sense.
"They should be able to purchase the fishing license online. And once they have a fishing license, they should have no restrictions on which flats they can fish," said Knowles.
The Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Amendment) Bill, 2015 and the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Flats Fishing) Regulations, 2015 introduce a number of regulations designed to create a regulatory framework for flats fishing in The Bahamas through a set of new permit fees and stricter distinctions for foreign fishers and foreign-owned bonefishing lodges.
Knowles asserted that only a handful of local fishermen and lodge operators are responsible for pushing the legislation, arguing that they disingenuously pin their own business woes on a relatively small number of foreign bonefishing ventures.
"This thing started with just a handful of Bahamian lodges that cannot make it on their own, and they believe that the American-run lodges are the problem. That is not the problem - they need to run their lodges efficiently. The independent guides, they want to knock the price out of the roof," stated Knowles.
The proposed regulations bar other citizens or permanent residents of The Bahamas from applying for certification as a fishing lodge operator. Aside from a host of certification requirements, all applicants to operate a lodge or act as a guide must also satisfy nebulous additional criteria for the Department of Marine Resources.
This is cause for serious concern, according to Knowles, who fears that it will engender cronyism within the industry as independent guides and lodges vie for permit and rights to certain flats. The proposed regulations, Knowles argued, serve as a surefire way to drive reliable business into the arms of growing regional competitors.
"Who can control who can be licensed as a guide and who's not to be licensed as a guide? Because I don't like you, I can't give you a license as a guide? That's a recipe for a disaster... that is all a gang mentality.
"All that's doing is causing The Bahamas' image as a fly fishing destination to corrode. Cuba just opened up and instead of us trying to do our product better so they don't have to go to Cuba we're dividing and sending them to Cuba. We need fishermen, we need tourism dollars. And what are we doing? We're chasing them away... to Belize or Mexico and they'll be glad to take it," said Knowles.
The proposed regulations and amendment have already drawn the scorn of international bonefishing blogs, some of which have warned that it could signal the death of The Bahamas' lucrative bonefishing industry.
"We're throwing it away. We Bahamians don't know what we have... We're killing the goose that lays the golden egg," Knowles added.

Conservation
Section six of the regulations contains provisions for the creation of a conservation fund through The Department of Marine Resources "for the conservation and management of the flats and its marine resources".
Under the proposed regulations, visitors and others seeking flats fishing permits would be charged $20 a day for a permit, while guides and lodge operators would pay $150 and $250 per year for their certificates, respectively. All three of these fees are accompanied by $10 processing fees.
Flats fishing permit fees will then be split down the middle, with 50 percent of proceeds going to the government's consolidated fund and the other half "reserved as a conservation levy and directly deposited into, and for the purposes of the conservation fund." However, all other fees outlined in the regulations, including fishing guide or fishing lodge operator certification fees, penalties, and other fees.
The regulations would extend customs duty exemptions for fly fishing gear and related supplies, including reels, rods, flies, etc.; boats; engines; trailers; trucks and other vehicles.
Although the regulations further outline the penalties for commercial fishing in the flats, Knowles charged that local law enforcement continually refuses to appropriately investigate alleged instances of illegal netting in Long Island, which threatened one of the pillars of the island's economy.
A 2010 study conducted by the Bahamas Flats Fishing Alliance estimated that the flats fishing industry has an annual economic impact of $141 million. However, Knowles last year told a local newspaper that illegal netting threatens to completely devastate the industry within five years if it continues unchecked.

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Neymour questions govt 'secrecy' on Rubis Sandyport leak report

June 24, 2015

Former Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour sharply criticized the Christie administration for its response to a reported leak at Rubis' Sandyport service station, stating yesterday that the administration needs to do more to hold the fuel industry to government standards.
Speaking with Guardian Business, Neymour commented on the government's muted response to a reported leak at the site earlier this month. Neymour, whose responsibilities within the ministry previously included managing relationships with the largest petroleum companies in The Bahamas, said that he had independently visited the site and found evidence of "some contamination in that area," which he expected had gone on for some time.
"I question the government's performance because the government should have known by now whether there was a leak or what is necessary to mitigate the exposure if there was a leak and that has not been done.
"I question all of the secrecy because at the end of the day we're confident that the government did not cause any leak...So why would the government not want to disclose to its citizens, who it has a mandate to protect? That is my concern at this particular time," said Neymour.
Minister of the Environment Kenred Dorsett earlier stated that representatives from the Environmental Remediation and Response Laboratory (EMRAD) and the Ministry of Works' Volatile Substance Unit had conducted an assessment on the facility.
Sandyport Development Company President and Director Garth Buckner previously told Guardian Business that there was no indication that there had been a massive leak at the site, noting that Rubis had quickly closed an affected fuel line after a resident spotted seepage out of Rubis bulkhead.
Gordon Craig, Rubis Caribbean's managing director for The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, told Guardian Business last week that the company had immediately responded to reports of heavy fumes and leaks at the facility from Sandyport business tenets and residents but denied reports of large fuel spillages.
When asked whether the government had handled the investigation and reporting of the alleged incident, Neymour stated:
"I think the issues of spills at Marathon and at Sandy Port could be excellent case studies in academic environments as to what to do and what not to do, because there have been some decisions made that I think have not helped this private organization going forward from a public relations standpoint.
"To not disclose the truth is to the detriment of us all and so I think it is important that it be disclosed if there were a spill, and disclosed in a timely matter," said Neymour.

Silence
The government has yet to deliver an anticipated incident report from the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) or provide any further updates on the reported leak.
That silence yesterday spurred environmental attorney Romauld Ferreira to speak out against the government's secrecy surrounding both the reported Sandyport incident and the lingering health concerns surrounding Rubis' well-publicized fuel leak at its Marathon station in late 2012/early 2013.
"Unless you get the results of those tests, then how much credibility can you put into the words of a government that's represented by the ultimate statement that 'we aim to keep our job and so we're keeping information from you.' That's the reality of what you're facing," he said.
Ferreira, a director of environmental advocacy group Save the Bays (STB), reiterated the group's call for an independent evaluation of the Sandyport site to determine a course of action for remediation and education for those possibly affected. He spoke with NB12.
"It comes down to this: Bahamians have a right to know what's in their drinking water and they have a right to know what's in their oceans, what they're swimming in, these are basic rights recognized by any government. These are basic human rights, actually, basic environmental rights. This is why Save the Bays has called for an independent investigation," said Ferreira.

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Strachan questions if blacklist in line with international standards

June 24, 2015

The European Union (EU) tax blacklist published on June 17 has come under fierce attack in some jurisdictions and has stirred a panoply of different responses. While The Bahamas is demanding that it be removed from the list, Bermuda has already been removed; Spain may be pushing to have Gibraltar included on the list, and Guernsey is "astonished" to have been included in the first place.
And yesterday, Antigua and Barbuda - The Bahamas' fellow member state in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) - blasted back at what Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne termed the "unjust" inclusion of his country on the list, and accused the EU Commission and Commissioner Pierre Moscovici of having done "considerable harm" to Antigua and Barbuda and many other countries named on the list "in flagrant disregard of known facts about the jurisdictions".
In fact, Browne demanded an apology from the EU for the damage it has done to Antigua and Barbuda and called for it to publicly rescind the flawed and injurious list.
Browne's comments were contained in a strongly worded letter to Mikael Barford, ambassador of the European Union for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
On June 17 the EU Commission released its "Action Plan for Fair and Efficient Corporate Taxation in the EU", which included five key areas for action: relaunching the common consolidated corporate tax base; ensuring fair taxation where profits are generated; creating a better business environment; increasing transparency and improving EU coordination.
Part of the plan was a list of third country non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, or what is effectively another blacklist. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has expressed concern over the publication of the list, particularly given that some of the countries on the list have been declared either compliant or largely compliant - as is The Bahamas - with the standards of the OECD's Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes.
Minister of Financial Services Hope Strachan confirmed that The Bahamas has already initiated discussions with both the OECD and the EU about being removed from the list.
"The area comprising what is considered third country, non-cooperative tax jurisdictions from which the EU blacklist arises... is based on the independent national lists of EU member states," Strachan explained.
"The European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs, Pierre Moscovici, stated that the publishing of the list of 'non-cooperative jurisdictions' was a decisive step in pushing the territories to adopt international standards."
What is clear is the somewhat arbitrary nature of the list in question, and Strachan told Guardian Business that it was unclear how the method used to include The Bahamas on the list was in line with international standards, given the fact that The Bahamas is a cooperative jurisdiction which is "largely compliant" with Global Forum standards, and that the EU Commission has incorporated the Global Forum's terms of reference into its principles of good governance in tax matters.
"It would appear that the EU has its own standard that differs for each of its member states, that they would then be able to include countries on their lists to be compiled as an EU list without applying the same standard across the board in line with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Global Forum standard, which is recognized as the largest tax body in the world with 127 member countries," Strachan said.
The OECD's Center for Tax Policy and Administration (CTPA) and the Global Forum issued a statement confirming that "...the only agreeable assessment of countries as regards their cooperation is made by the Global Forum and a number of countries identified in the EU exercise are either fully or largely compliant and have committed to AEOI (automatic exchange of information), sometimes even as early adopters."
One such "early adopter" is Bermuda, which has been removed from the list by Poland. Poland, one of 11 EU countries that the European Commission (EC) used as its criterion to put Bermuda on the blacklist, signed a tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) with Bermuda which came into effect in March this year.
Italy was one of the 11 countries that named Bermuda in its EC submissions. However, Italy signed a tax information treaty with the island in 2013, and announced earlier this year that it had taken Bermuda off its national blacklist.
Strachan noted that the European Commission's Platform for Tax Good Governance - which assists the commission in developing initiatives to promote good governance in tax matters in third countries - consists of business and tax professionals, and civil society organizations seeking to coordinate an effective EU approach against tax evasion and avoidance. These members are the tax authorities of all member states and 15 organizations representing business, civil society and tax practitioners.
"It is hard to accept that such a body of tax authorities and professionals agreed on the process used to determine the listing of countries considered non-cooperative issued by the EU," the minister said.
She reiterated that The Bahamas has demonstrated its overall dedication to ending cross-border tax evasion by its implementation of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and by pledging to facilitate the automatic exchange of information under the OECD's Common Reporting Standard (CRS), beginning in 2018.
"The list published by the EU should be retracted immediately, as it is unfounded, procedurally unfair and insults the progress made by the OECD on international tax initiatives of which many of the countries listed are a part," Strachan told Guardian Business.
"The Bahamas has already begun communications with the OECD and the EU and will continue to press this issue as we join with other nations in the Caribbean to resolve this matter."
Meanwhile, as The Bahamas is seeking to get off the list, it is understood that Spain will call on the European Commission to include Gibraltar on the EU blacklist of tax havens published last week. Spain's Treasury Minister Cristobal Montoro said Spain has "more than sufficient reason" to view Gibraltar as a tax haven.

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Turnquest accuses govt of 'negligent oversight' on gaming

June 24, 2015

Shadow Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest has called on the Christie administration to swiftly bring an end to the "transition period" for licensing the country's web shop industry, charging that The Bahamas could be willingly depriving itself of vital gaming tax revenue.
In a correspondence with Guardian Business, Turnquest said that the vague details of the recently announced extension to the transition period call into question the transparency of the licensing process and also leave industry employees in limbo regarding access to national insurance and banking services.
"During this transition period, are the web shops subject to gaming taxes. And if not, why not? If so, what is the supervision process? What is the due diligence hold up and is the government of The Bahamas being deprived of necessary revenue, or is this delay a way for the government to provide backdoor relief for the operators to compensate for the penalties they were made to pay up front in order to cure past activities?" Turnquest asked.
Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who has ministerial responsibility for gaming, earlier this week indicated that the transition period for the web shop industry had been extended indefinitely as the Gaming Board works to provide successful applicants with gaming house operator licenses.
Wilchcombe then admitted that a loophole in the legalization process could be interpreted as allowing web shop franchise owners to open new locations during this transition period. Wilchcombe said this is incorrect. While the Gaming Act 2014 does not address the illegality of the web shops operating during the government's transition period, those businesses still operating do so outside of the law until the Gaming Board licenses the companies.
Turnquest chalked the loopholes up to "negligent oversight" on the Christie administration's part and questioned the lack of an explicit moratorium on new web shop locations during the licensing process.
"The delay obviously hampers the ability of the operators to progress and develop the industry in a transparent manner and with consistency," said Turnquest. "The ability to negotiate above board banking relationships is also hampered by this delay. As for the employees, they cannot have any security of employment, with all that entails until there is a legitimate business enterprise. This means access to NIB, unemployment benefits and banking services are limited.
"The web shop operators, the employees and the government deserve an early resolution in the interest of transparency, accountability and fairness to all parties concerned," Turnquest stated.
Wilchcombe earlier said that the Christie administration had extended an invitation to members of the Free National Movement to be briefed on the licensing process. However, Turnquest indicated that the opposition had had no further briefings on the process, arguing that there is no need for further discussions until the process is concluded.
"The question must be asked: Why? What is the hold-up and does this indicate that the government was not prepared to regulate the industry even after rushing through the legislation? Once again this government is proving that they were and are not ready to govern," said Turnquest.

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Bahamas elected to UNWTO Executive Council

June 24, 2015

The Bahamas has been elected to the Executive Council of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for the period 2015 through 2017, and will represent member countries of the Americas region.
Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe will take the seat in the Executive Council during the upcoming General Assembly of the UNWTO in Medellin, Colombia, September 12-17, 2015.
"The election represents an honor for The Bahamas, a country that is renown for its leadership in the tourism industry. We will nurture relationships, vigorously pursue multi-destination opportunities and search out the best and most effective use of technology. We intend to be active and raise issues that can enlarge and enhance the tourism industry for The Bahamas and for the region," Wilchcombe told Guardian Business yesterday.
The UNWTO is a UN agency that promotes tourism as an engine of economic advancement, environmental sustainability and inclusive development. It is recognized for its role in advancing competitive and sustainable tourism policies and minimizing potential negative impacts. It has a membership which includes 156 countries, six territories and some 400 affiliate members representing tourism agencies in both the private and public sector.
Wilchcombe said it is an honor for a small nation like The Bahamas, among many other larger nations, to be recognized internationally for its leadership in the highly competitive tourism sector.
"As a representative of member countries in the Americas region on the executive council, not only will we represent our island nation at council meetings with distinction, but also those member countries who elected us to ensure that their interest is articulated as the executive council manages the affairs of the UNWTO," he said.
UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai said the organization's leadership is "extremely pleased to see The Bahamas taking a seat as a member of the UNWTO Executive Council for the period 2015-2017.
"The Bahamas is a leading tourism destination and we trust that the country's experience and leadership will be a major contribution to the council's work in the coming two years. The Bahamas' participation in the council comes at a particularly important moment as the international community sets the post-2015 development agenda, where sustainable tourism has a crucial role to play," Rifai said.
The Bahamas rejoined the UNWTO in 2002, and since then has held a number of leadership positions within the organization, including vice president of the Commission for the Americas; member of the Sustainable Tourism Committee and presently chairman of the Committee on Tourism and Sustainability, with Israel serving as vice chair.

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BOB managers engage in meet and greet

June 24, 2015

BOB hosted a Meet the Managers event on Thursday, June 18, 2015 at its Carmichael Road branch.

Managers from all of the New Providence branches were on-hand to greet and meet with customers. This special in-house event was designed for sales managers to become intimately acquainted with customers and discuss product performance and service experience.
Renee Davis, chief operating officer, welcomed attendees and encouraged them to provide feedback to the managers, emphasizing the bank's desire to know how well they are being served and how it can improve to better serve them. This event targeted customers banking at the western branches of Carmichael Road, Harrold Road and Thompson Blvd. The next Meet the Managers event is scheduled for later this year and will target customers banking at the Village Road and Shirley Street branches.

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Swimmers prepare to dive in at RBC nationals

June 24, 2015

Over 20 international swimmers will be in town this weekend for what is being widely touted as "the most exciting" edition of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)/Bahamas Swimming Federation (BSF) swimming nationals ever.
According to the psych sheets for the four-day meet, some of the nation's veteran and up-and-coming swimmers will go head-to-head at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Swim Complex, from Thursday to Sunday. It is a FINA (International Swimming Federation) sanctioned event, and one of the region's final qualifiers for the 16th FINA World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia this summer. Those championships are set for July 24 to August 9.
The meet will also serve as a qualifier for next year's Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"This is going to be the most exiting edition of the Bahamas Swimming Federation's (BSF) nationals ever," said BSF President Algernon Cargill, who was elected on Monday to represent the region on the executive body of the Swimming Union of the Americas (UANA). "This year's nationals features a highly talented pool of athletes. We are anticipating a highly competitive meet and are pleased that RBC Royal Bank is again partnering with us as the title sponsor."
This year marks the 32nd consecutive year that RBC has sponsored the swimming nationals.
The girls 15 and over 50 meters (m) breaststroke event could be one of the hottest races of the competition. Olympic hopeful Ariel Weech will be going up against a couple of CARIFTA gold medalists, multiple national record holder Joanna Evans and Margaret Albury Higgs. The boys 15 and over 100 butterfly event also features a tough field. Swimmers such as N'Nhyn Fernander, Vereance Burrows, Evante Gibson and Armando Moss will be battling for the title.
A bit of history will also be made at this weekend's meet as Swift Swimming will have four generations of swimming in two relays. The four swimmers, Percy, Andy, Dallas and Joss Knowles, will be swimming the 200m free and 200m medley relays, and according to reports, representatives from Guinness World Records will be on hand for both relays, as no such event has ever been attempted. Application has been made for the attempts to be recorded in the Guinness World Record Book.
"I think it's a great thing to have four generations of swimmers competing," said Cargill. "We are certainly going to lobby to have the accomplishment recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. I know SwimSwam, which is a global swimming magazine, said that it's never been done before, so they will be keeping a close eye on the meet as well."
Swift Swimming was dominant at last year's swimming nationals, winning a large number of races. They have already won several of the meets on the BSF's 2015 swimming calendar.
FINA is the international federation recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for administering international competition in aquatics. The global body currently oversees competition in five aquatic sports - swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, water polo and open water swimming.

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BSF President Cargill elected to UANA executive board and FINA Bureau

June 24, 2015

Algernon Cargill, president of the Bahamas Swimming Federation (BSF), and former vice president of the Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation (CCCAN), 2010-2104, was elected on Monday June 22, at the 2015 CCCAN Congress being held for the 2015 CCCAN Championships in Bridgetown, Barbados, to represent the region on the executive body of the Union Americana de Natacion/UANA (Swimming Union of the Americas).
Cargill's four-year term will commence immediately after the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. He received 39 votes, and followed by Errol Clarke of Barbados, former president of CCCAN and current FINA (International Swimming Federation) Bureau member, with 31 votes. Clarke will join Cargill as a UANA executive member.
Current CCCAN President Felix Calderon, of Puerto Rico, received 10 votes and Ishmael Gonzalez, who is currently a UANA executive member, received six votes.
"This really puts The Bahamas in a very prestigious position, primarily in terms of leadership, but also in terms of the influence throughout the CCCAN region," said Cargill. "CCCAN is a group of 28 countries that comprises of english, spanish, dutch and Central America, and parts of South America also.
"This position puts me in the inner circle in terms of the development of swimming globally to set policies not only in the CCCAN region, but throughout the world. It's a position that enables The Bahamas to use this influence and move in a more strategic direction in terms of swimming."
Cargill was also elected to serve as the automatic delegate for the CCCAN region on the FINA Bureau, with his four-year term in that capacity set to commence in 2017. In this election held in Barbados, he received 33 votes. Errol Clarke, who was re-confirmed to continue serving on the FINA Bureau commencing in 2017, received 28 votes. He is expected to be re-elected by the global delegates at the 2017 FINA Congress, Cuban Eugenio Martinez, current FINA Bureau member, was unsuccessful in his bid to continue to serve. He received 14 votes, followed by Felix Calderon, the current CCCAN President, who was again unsuccessful, receiving 13 votes.
"This means that my work with the swimming federation of The Bahamas has been recognized by my colleagues around the world and also puts me in the position to acknowledge all of the great things that we have done here in the BSF to move the federation foward as a swimming powerhouse globally," said Cargill.
Cargill's election to these two global positions, the highest in swimming, is great news for the BSF. According to reports, his campaign was based on the strength of his effective leadership of the BSF, together with his contributions as the vice president of CCCAN, and professional acumen and experiences.
Cargill is not only the first Bahamian to serve at this level in swimming, but he is only the second English Caribbean person to be elected to the FINA Bureau. Under Cargill's leadership, The Bahamas through the BSF received its first world medal, its first Olympic youth medal, advanced to a swimming final at the Olympic Games, won its first Commonwealth Games medal, won many Central American and Caribbean (CAC) medals (more than any sport competing for The Bahamas at the CAC Games in 2010 and 2014), and won back-to-back CARIFTA swimming titles in 2014 and 2015.
Cargill's executive team with the BSF also introduced the Academic All-Bahamian Awards, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), that recognizes outstanding swimmers who have qualified to compete in the RBC National Swimming Championships and have achieved a grade point average (GPA) of 3.50 or above. This year, more than 100 swimmers are being recognized for this prestigious award.
The RBC National Swimming Championships is set for this weekend, Thursday to Sunday, at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Swim Complex.
Cargill is an experienced swimming technical official and is currently a FINA referee and starter, and was recently appointed to the FINA list of Open Water Referees. These qualifications enable him to judge pool and open water swimming at any level, including the Olympic Games and World Championships. Cargill's immediate goals are to unify the CCCAN region, and use his competency in Spanish to bridge the cultural divide that currently exists within CCCAN, and promote CCCAN, a region that comprises 28 countries, as an influential and powerful block of countries with quality swimmers, disciplined officials, and well managed federations.

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Pride re-elected to lead Bahamas Association of Athletics Coaches

June 24, 2015

Track and field coaches voted overwhelmingly in favor of Curtis Pride to continue his work as president of the Bahamas Association of Athletics Coaches (BAAC), leading that organization for the next two years.
Over 80 percent of the coaches voted in favor of the slate of Pride which consisted of first vice president Shaun Miller, second vice Marvin Darville, secretary general David Ferguson, assistant secretary general Mildred Adderley, and Gregg Cash as treasurer.
Pride's quiet demeanor, but relentless passion during his last leadership as president, produced the coaches' education initiative where over 70 coaches, many from the public schools, became certified as level one coaches. His team has clearly defined its new goals which are expected to be articulated throughout the year.
Pride's board members include Peter Pratt, Fritz Grant, Kennord Mackey, Ann Thompson and Mae Miller, and all have pledged to ensure that the association's integrity is maintained, and that sustainable initiatives are comprehensive and have national perspectives.
President of the BAAA Mike Sands was on hand to congratulate Pride, who very humbly accepted his blessings and pledged to ensure that the affiliate membership works amicably with Sands and the BAAA.
One thing is certain, and that is athletes need coaches who are able to help them realize their full potential. As athletes, coaches and officials prepare for the BAAA Senior National Championships this weekend, the nation will witness the work of coaches who have produced world-class talent with little or no assistance.
"It is just a labor of love, where the greatest reward is seeing regional and international success of Bahamian talent on the track and in the field," said Pride.
The BAAA senior nationals is set for Friday and Saturday at the old Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium, starting at 5 p.m. each day.

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The Bahamas men's basketball team second place finish not particularly positive

June 24, 2015

It's back to the drawing board for the Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) regarding the senior men's national basketball team. The situation speaks to the lofty expectations for the team during the recently concluded Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC) Championships, that placing second indicates The Bahamas underachieved.
Federation executives and others may differ with this point of view, but the history of The Bahamas in basketball points to the potential to be better than any other Caribbean nation. Add to that fact, defending champion and tournament favorite status prior to the start of competition in host country British Virgin Islands (BVI) last week.
I wish to take nothing from the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). The USVI has always been overwhelmingly influenced by the United States, in basketball, in particular. Potential wise though, the view here is that The Bahamas has always had a better talent pool. We still do, despite the defeat on Sunday by the score of 71-65. The result to my way of thinking underscores that it is imperative that BBF executives get with it and do what is necessary (legally) to put the best combination on the court. Get the funding that would allow longer training camps so that the players can better bond with each other and be an ultra cohesive unit on the floor no matter which players are sent into the game.
If it makes sense to have more seasoned and upscale coaching leadership, then, see to that necessary arrangement. There ought to be encouraging words for the players and the coaches. They placed second and qualified for the higher level of competition event, Centrobasket Tournament next year. They had a backcourt problem however, and we have a wealth of quality Bahamian guards.
Coach Gladstone "Moon" McPhee has it quite right.
"Gone are the days when the federation can expect players to come home without being offered all of the amenities their peers get when they return to their national team environments. We should be covering travel expenses, hotel accommodations, adequate in-land transportation and other gestures. This is the time we are living in. I can tell you that 40 years ago when I was in charge of basketball, I brought players in and put them up in hotels. That was many years ago," pointed out McPhee.
In truth, sponsors such as Dashwell "Dashy" Williams and James White ensured that teams representing Grand Bahama were given "high class" treatment. In Grand Bahama today, old timers speak fondly about those days. Fast-forward to today and there is a climate that does not bode well for the best teams being assembled. This is why I refer often to the huge challenge facing the federation.
"There is no way we should be losing to any other Caribbean country if we are at full strength, but you know, I wonder if the BBF's executives and the coaches really have it and know what to do. Maybe, they just don't know how to maximize the potential available to them," McPhee further stated.
For sure, the only way to erase the doubts about their collective capacity is to ensure that the best basketball teams available go forth to represent The Commonwealth of the Bahamas, going forward.

(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at sturrup1504@gmail.com)

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Old Bahama Bay recaptured fishing title in West End

June 24, 2015

WEST END, Grand Bahama -- Old Bahama Bay walked away once again as winners of the West End 5th Annual Snapper Fishing Tournament this past Saturday.
On hand to briefly address the crowd, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama, said the honoree, James "Jimmy" Bowleg, was worthy of being recognized during the fishing tournament. Bowleg was known for being the first bonefishing guide and was active in the boating business all his life.
During his remarks, Minister Wilchcombe said that even if they did not win, the participants should remember that they are building brotherhood, friendships and partnerships, which will all contribute to building a wonderful Bahamas.
With a total fish weight of 673.9 pounds and snapper weight of 633 pounds, the team of Garvin Green, Neil Stubbs, Kenneth Christie and Rev. Lawrence Hepburn, from Old Bahama Bay, repeated their performance from a year ago.
The second place finisher was Coffee on the Bays/Foleys with a total fish weight of 497 pounds and snapper weight of 435.4 pounds. This team also walked away with the bragging rights of catching the biggest fish at 15.6 pounds.
MJ McQueen was third with a total fish weight of 349 pounds and snapper weight of 314 pounds, and fourth was Passing Wind II with a total weight of 337.4 pounds and snapper weight of 319.7 pounds.
Also on hand to take in the festivities and mingle with the visitors and residents alike were Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell and Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville.
Entertainment included performances from the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Pop Band and entertainer 'KB'.

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Ballin' By Da Beach Camp into sixth year

June 24, 2015

Summer basketball camps around The Bahamas are tipping off, and the country's only camp dedicated solely to female players, opened its doors on Monday for its highly anticipated sixth edition.
The Ballin' By Da Beach Girls Basketball Camp, hosted by Jurelle Nairn and facilitated by Charisse Mapp, the head varsity girls coach at Charlotte Latin School in Charlotte, North Carolina, is scheduled to continue through Friday at Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium. The camp is open to girls ages five to 18, and runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
Nairn, who served as team manager of the senior women's national basketball team this year, has seen her camp grow in popularity and stature with each edition.
The one-time head coach of the Queen's College senior girls basketball team said that she likes the way this year's camp has progressed up to this point, and that the motivation behind the camp is still about improving play among the young female basketball players in The Bahamas.
"I would say the turnout this year was pretty good, as expected. We have over 80 girls registered, so clearly there is a real interest in basketball among the young women in the country," she said. "This is a small part of what needs to be done to get women's basketball back to the point where it was some time ago. We need to have more camps teaching the fundamentals, but more importantly, the girls need a place where they can play. That's the only way they're going to get better. You can do work individually, but you have to play other people. In our high school system, these girls play maybe seven or eight games for the year, as opposed to the 30 that their international competitors play."
A total of 15 of the camp's former participants have received scholarships to U.S. high schools and colleges.
"The numbers continue to increase every year and it continues to take me by surprise," Nairn said. "This is a week-long program and as much good as it does, this program can only put a dent in what needs to be done, but we are looking forward to its continued growth."
Next on the camp's vision timeline is to introduce a boys segment of Ballin' By Da Beach next summer, along with staging a coach's clinic.
Interested persons can register at www.ballinbydabeach.com, with further information via Twitter - @Ballinbydabeach, Facebook - www.facebook.com/ballinbydabeach or e-mail - ballinbydabeach@gmail.com.

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The people's priest

June 24, 2015

It hasn't been a journey without a bump or bruise along the way, but Catholic priest Father David Cooper said he was "humbled" to have been able to celebrate his 20th anniversary of priestly ordination.
Cooper, 48, who was ordained June 22, 1995 at Our Lady's Church, Young and Deveaux Streets, celebrated his priestly anniversary ordination on Monday, June 22 at Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Grand Bahama, where he is now priest.
"It certainly makes you realize how fast time goes by, and moreover, it causes you to reflect on the many instances you would have had to engage in the lives of people. And certainly on a personal level, it makes you more humbled as you continue to strive to be a good minister of the word and minister of the sacrament of God's church for God's people," said Cooper.
He celebrated with four deacons, who were also celebrating their 15th anniversary on June 21 -- Andrew Burrows, Nixon Lindor, Raymond Forbes and Max Johnson.
Making it a joint celebration he said was something he came up with, and his anniversary committee went with it.
They celebrated with Mass at which Archbishop Patrick Pinder was the chief celebrant and homilist, followed by a reception in the church's backyard.
Cooper said having his parents, mother Veronica Mortimer and father Livingstone Cooper, who are both 90 years old and who journeyed to Grand Bahama for the anniversary, made the celebration worthwhile
"Having both my parents there -- that alone made the occasion worthwhile. It made the last 20 years worth the while actually," he said.
As he looks forward to his 40th anniversary, Cooper said he hopes to still be engaged in the work of the Lord and the ministry of the Catholic Church.
"Now, however that takes shape or form, that's not for me to decide," he said.
Cooper can vividly recall the day of his ordination in the hot, overcrowded Our Lady's Church, and celebrating his first Mass of thanksgiving the following Friday night in another overcrowded night in the church as family, friends and church members filled the edifice to celebrate with the young man who had grown up in the parish. The following Sunday, he was assigned to cover Resurrection Catholic Church in South Beach, where he had his first baptism -- and that was his godchild, Kwame Glinton, the son of his classmate, Bernadette Cooper. They coordinated it so that son would be Cooper's first baptism
During that week Cooper was sent off to North Eleuthera, where there was a temporary vacancy that summer. He remained there for 10 weeks covering Hatchet Bay, Gregory Town and Governor's Harbour before he switched to Gregory Town, Hatchet Bay and The Bogue in Harbour Island.
On September 7, he returned to New Providence for his first official assignment, which took effect September 8, 1995 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral at West and West Hill Streets with the now bishop, then Fr. Patrick Pinder.
"The timeline is as fresh as it could be," said Cooper.
The priest spent five years at St. Francis, almost six years at Holy Family Church on Robinson Road, then was out of ministry for approximately five-and-a-half months before being reassigned in Grand Bahama. Originally he was assigned to West End/St. Michael's Parish, and is now pastor at Mary Star of the Sea with responsibility for West End/St. Michael's as well as Holy Name Church in Bimini. He took up the post on January 8, 2007.
Cooper travels between the two islands and said he tries to celebrate Mass on Bimini every two weeks. With associate Oswald Ferguson, they split assignment and travel duties.
"Even with the ups and downs, the responsibilities have increased over the 20 years," he said.

The draw to religious life
Growing up, Cooper said he was fortunate to see newly ordained priests and deacons regularly at Our Lady's.
"My home parish is Our Lady's Parish, and it was the breaking-in ground for young Bahamian priests, so I was fortunate to see newly-ordained priests and deacons regularly at Our Lady's. Even the new archbishop entered as a new priest at Our Lady's so I saw people like me, doing what I hoped or thought was possible, and then the mentorship kicked in after that. Each of them offered their own strengths to ministry that allowed me to say I want to be like them and can still be me with my own gifts and uniqueness and strive to be a good priest as well. You have to look at yourself and look at whatever goal you would like to pursue as it being a possibility, and that's the first thing, and that possibility only bears fruit when you see people like yourself in the ministry," he said.
Upon graduating high school in 1983 at age 16, Cooper worked for four years as a messenger before formally applying to college/seminary -- which he did in September 1987.
"The first four years was pretty much discernment, decision-making, spiritual direction as you pursue your first degree, and then junior year of the college years you have to decide whether you're going on to theology grad school or not. I finished my grad studies in May 1995 after being ordained a deacon December 29, 1994 at Our Lady's Church. I finished school in May and was ordained in May 1995."

Advice to undecided young men
Father Cooper's advice to young men who are undecided about entering the priesthood, he said would be for them to pray about it.
"You can't be a priest for your mother or your daddy, or your uncle or whatever. You have to want to do it -- and not because you want to do it, it's going to happen. Not because you feel called to do it it's going to happen, so you have to pray about it."
Cooper said praying to God and active participation in the sacramental life of the church is a must.
"You have to find meaning at the bottom level as it were first, and as you mature in the faith then your discernment kind of takes another level, and then you can start to say if you wonder if God is calling you. No one is worthy to embrace the ministry of the church, we only can do the best we could."
The priest said discernment takes different levels, with an academic standard, as there is no "freelance calling" into ministry and a person is assigned to be a pastor in the Catholic Church.
"You have to be educated, you have to be formed, you have to do practicums, and then you have to commit to the official teachings of the church," he said.
The complete formation cycle for a Catholic priest is eight years.

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Jesus cares

June 24, 2015

A furious squall came up and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" - Mark 4:37-41

Often the people around us, and conditions of this world cause us grief. Scripture tells us about a man named Job who was once wealthy and he had a loving family. However, he lost his wealth, his children and finally his health.
Yet, in all of this, he did not lose God. He trusted in God who sustained him. Eventually God rescued Job from his miserable state. He also rescues us from our human conditions and miserable state because he cares.
In the above text Jesus and his disciples are at sea. During the short journey Jesus fell asleep. While he was sleeping, a furious storm developed. In all of this Jesus was sound asleep.
One might ask, "How can anyone sleep in such a storm?" Well I can answer that. I have often slept through torrential rain and lightning storms without even knowing they happened.
The disciples were really afraid. They were so afraid that they roused Jesus from his sleep. They inquired of him,"Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" "Do you really care about me, about us?" People all over the world often ask this same question. What a question to put to Jesus. He cares sacrificially for all humans.
Many are fearful and they are asking questions, "Who cares?" The citizens of a country ask their government similar questions as they lose their jobs, homes and eventually their families. Lovers ask their mates, "Do you care?" Children ask their parents similar questions. They all feel that they are at sea, in a furious stormy.
Unfortunately when people get into desperate situations, they do not know where to go for answers. Some seek out family, friends and/or politicians. Others do terrible things such as turning to crime, while some make the ultimate choice -- they take their own life.
The word and the promise of God can help us deal with our fears and desperate situations. The Psalmist, in his time of distress wrote: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strong hold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" [Ps. 27:1]
The disciples turned to Jesus for relief. They needed what he had to offer. We all need that too. Jesus is Lord of the sea and the wind. He took control of the situation, restoring peace and calm to the troubled water. That's what he does in our lives.
Therefore, when life's woes get you down, your situation becomes desperate and you feel like the disciples felt out there on the windswept waters, don't push the panic button. Turn to Jesus. He will give you a way out of your dilemma.
"Who cares?" God in Christ Jesus cares. He is there in the boat and riding the rough waves with you. When you stumble, he will steady you. When you fall, he will pick you up. He said, "I will be with you always, even to the very end of the world." Fasten your eyes on the cross of Jesus Christ. You will be alright. He cares. Amen.

o Reverend Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, can be reached at P. O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas, or telephone 426-9084; E-mail: lutheranchurch@coralwave.com.

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Everyone has an agenda

June 24, 2015

I'm quite sure that just about everyone has gone to a meeting of some kind, maybe at work, at your church or sporting organization. When we attend a meeting there is always an agenda set for the meeting, which the person facilitating the meeting will make sure that the participants stay with.
Dictionary.com defines the word "agenda" as: a list, plan, outline, or the like, or things to be done, matters to be acted upon, etc. So when we have a meeting, we have a list of the things, the matters to be dealt with at the meeting, which we hopefully stick to, in order to have a productive, well ordered and successful meeting.
But what I'd like to highlight here today for all of my valued readers, is the fact that as today's title puts it, everyone has an agenda, yes they do, whether we're aware of it or not. In other words, when someone comes to talk with us about a particular subject, we need to realize and indeed be fully aware of the fact, that before that when persons opens their mouth to start speaking, they do in fact have a very specific agenda lined up in their head.
So, it's most important for us to be fully aware of this fact, that most people do indeed have a very specific agenda in their head, an organized list of exactly what they want to discuss and the points that they intend to make us fully aware of. This agenda which some refer to as a hidden agenda needs to be rooted out and fully understood before entering into a discussion with others, if at all possible.
Let me give you an example of what I'm actually talking about. Let's say that a person at the office says to you, that they'd like to go for a drink with you after work. You need to be on your guard, so to speak, and thus ask a whole lot of questions so that you will discover the actual agenda of the person who asked you to meet with them. Sometimes the person's agenda is one that you'll be glad to go along with; however, it could be that it's a matter that you're totally opposed to. So in conclusion, it's most important for you to always realize, that as today's title puts it, everyone has an agenda. Yes they do.
Think about it!

o 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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Gospel community to come together for independence celebration

June 24, 2015

The gospel music community will come together to celebrate the nation's 42nd Independence with a gospel celebration featuring some of the top Gospel recording artists and choirs.
Shaback, Tamika Taylor, Edison Sumner & Voices of Praise, Terrance Forbes, JoAnn Callendar, Nehemiah Hield, The Rahming Brothers, Necole Watson, DJ Counsellor, Colyn Major, Emily Williams, Big Bruh, Monique Terez, Al Gibson, Hubert McIntosh, Mother Rachael Mackey, Singing Bishop Prophet Lawrence Rolle, Patricia Bazard along with the Bahamas National Children's Choir and The Royal Bahamas Police Force Choir are scheduled to perform.
The Bahamas Independence Gospel Celebration will be held at The Diplomat Center on Sunday, July 5 at 7 p.m.
Six people will receive posthumous honors -- the founder of Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI) Dr. Myles Munroe and Pastor Ruth Ann Munroe; BFMI former vice-president, Dr. Richard Pinder; former National Overseer of The Church of God Bahamas, Turks & Caicos Islands the late Bishop John Humes; and BFMI youth pastors, Pastor Lavard "Manifest" Parks and Pastor Radel Parks.
'"This is going to be an exciting opportunity for the church community, the family, the gospel music community and the entire country for that matter to truly come together and offer up praise and thanksgiving to God for all that he has done and continues to do for our beautiful country and its citizens," said Harris Media Group CEO Kevin "Minister K" Harris who is producing the event.
Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at Faith Life Book & Music Center (Diplomat Center), Logos Bookstore (Harbour Bay Shopping Plaza), 100% Bible Book & Gift Center (Robinson Road), Bucks Gospel (Wulff Road) and The Bible Book & Gift Center (Palmdale Shopping Plaza). VIP tickets are $25, groups of 10 or more can purchase tickets for $10 each directly from the Harris Media Group. For additional information interested persons can contact Harris Media Group at 676-7979 or 395-9984 or via email at harrismediagroupltd@gmail.com.

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The Lord has taught us to pray

June 24, 2015

"Lord, teach us to pray". - Luke 11:1

The world is getting more confused, violent and restless with each passing day. World leaders huddle together in summits with the hope that peaceful, financial and ethnic problems will be done away with. Parents have given up hope on children who seem to forget that love, honor and respect are due to them. Citizens are rebelling because they believe that government systems have failed them.
Daily, new medical products are advertised to catch the eye of and excite people who believe the cure for ailments is to be found in popping pills. However, to much regret, what is advertised is not what is expected.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet three United States Senate chaplains -- Richard Christian Halverson, John Lloyd Ogilvie and the present Barry Black, who is the first black person to hold such a position. Today, I don't have to hear it through the grapevine, talk shows, newspapers or whatever, but the cries of the needy, despised, forsaken and forgotten, the lonely and those who were once on high poles of plenty now find themselves at the bottom, staring you squarely in the face.
Who is to blame as the trio of "would'a, should'a and could'a" daily sing their national song of regrets that will not solve the situation? We, as a people, have a blessed heritage of praying to God when the going gets tough. Without a doubt, it worked for our forebears. But we have thrown away our faith and values for what we saw to be green grass, but sadly discovered to be artificial turf.
I am sharing with you today some of Lloyd John Ogilvie's prayers through the tough times. "When I feel empty, gracious Lord, I confess the burdens I have tried to carry myself -- personal needs, physical tiredness, weariness of living on my own strength, anxiety for the suffering people endure, discouragements in renewing the tradition-bound church, frustration in caring for religious people who may not know you, and anguish over the battle for justice and righteousness in culture. I come empty to be filled, humanely inadequate to be anointed with gifts beyond my talents -- a riverbed ready to receive the flow of your supernatural power. Thank you for loving me as I am, but not leaving me there. Help me to press on to live with greater passion than ever before.
"You have shown me that the antidote to pride is praise. In this time of prayer, I intentionally praise you for all that I might be tempted to think I have achieved on my own. Pride stunts my spiritual growth and makes me a difficult person for you to bless. Forgive me when I grasp the glory for myself. Thank you for breaking the bubble of the illusion that I am where I am because of my own cleverness or cunning. Humbly I acknowledge that I could not think a creative thought without your inspiration and guidance, or accomplish anything of lasting value without your power and courage. Amen."
Lord, you know that problems have a way of piling up. They accumulate and suddenly, too many surface at the same time. Sometimes it's my own fault. I've neglected lots of potential problems, saying, "I'll worry about that tomorrow", or I put off doing the caring thing for the people in my life, or sometimes they all want my attention at the same time.
But what are you trying to teach me, Lord? I sit here in the quiet, and your answers begin to flow. Help me mediate on the steps you give me so I don't forget them. I'm listening, Lord, and I need your help to focus on you and not the circumstance. I will deliberately turn my eyes away from the problems. This will release me from the tension of trying to solve the problems on my own strength.
Lord, help me to face the problem that is in front of me because so many problems engulf me. You will show me what you want me to learn and discover a potential good wrapped inside the problem. Lord, I will put blame behind me and commit the problem to you in prayer.
Lord, thank you for helping me to claim your promise and to share praise reports for what you have done for me in time of great need and confusion with trusted friends, family and acquaintances.

o E-mail rubyanndarling@yahoo.com, Facebook Ruby Ann Darling, write to P.O. Box SS 19725 Nassau, Bahamas with your prayer requests, concerns ad comments. God's blessings.

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Crime can be lowered

June 24, 2015

It is my belief that crime can be lowered in our country. The murders, theft and sexual assaults can all be drastically decreased. I have written about this topic several times, and think it is imperative that I reiterate a few principles I shared over the years. It is up to us to put our words into action. The religious leaders can keep on praying, but they must start acting. The educators must do more than teach, they must model good behavior. The legislators must do more than pass laws. They must live the laws and make sure the laws are enforced. Parents must set a good example of self-discipline, unconditional love and acceptance, consistency and non-violence.
It is my view that the increase of crime can be due to the lack of basic education in too many of our citizens, the lack of unconditional acceptance and the inept ability of the judiciary to enforce existing laws. However, if I can pinpoint two of the top reasons for the increase in crime it would be poor parenting and a high level of illiteracy -- social and intellectual. In this article I will emphasize, as I did a decade ago, the importance of basic education that will truly illuminate illiteracy and this lower crime.
Why is the ability to read, write and comprehend so important? Simple: It facilitates reasoning. Language is the medium by which we express thoughts and feelings. If one cannot formulate language, there is frustration. I have observed that men or women who cannot articulate their thoughts and feelings in an effective manner are usually the more violent ones.

The three R's
Have you ever heard about the three "R's", which are really the basic measurement of education for everyone -- reading, writing and arithmetic. In addition, basic education is the successful completion of grade 12-level standard schoolwork. It is not a choice. Unfortunately, too many parents and young people believe, based on what they have been told by so-called by responsible adults, that there are two kinds of basic education -- academic and technical. They suggest that if the child is academically inclined, likes to read, write and do arithmetic, then that child can do academic classes and become a teacher, lawyer, doctor, etc. However, if the child is not academically inclined, has difficulty or shows little or no interest in learning how to read with comprehension and write expressively, then let the child learn carpentry, painting, plumbing, masonry, etc. How can one calculate the dimensions of a wall and the needed amount of cement and blocks required to build that wall if one cannot read or write? Reading, writing and calculating are basic to everything we do.
It is sad that a very large percentage of students "completing" public high school in The Bahamas finish with a grade point average (GPA) of less than 2.00. I challenge you to observe their behavior as they leave school to the ones with much higher GPAs. The ones with lower GPAs will be more likely to be involved in violent crimes that those with higher GPAs. This is serious.
I have heard people expressing themselves on the streets, in debating halls and even on radio talk shows, that if someone is not academically inclined, then let him/her go to technical school to acquire a skill. What a dangerous misconception of education. This practice has actually turned our educational system into a giant crime-generating mill. We now have a generation of young men and women who cannot articulate their feelings, read simple instructions or respond wisely to moments of crisis. We have created an ugly, dangerous monster.

Social promotion is wrong
Promoting students to the next grade at the end of the school term when they are below the accepted GPA for promotion (known as "social promotion") has made a joke out of basic education in The Bahamas. It has created a disinterested approach to learning and has caused too many of our citizens to focus on surviving instead of on being significant. One would do anything to survive in a society where one perceives, based on one's limited ability to reason, that no one understands or treats him fairly. When one is not equipped with the tools to reason, read with comprehension, write intelligently or calculate, that person perceives that the world is his enemy and thinks he must do whatever it takes to get on top of those what are oppressing him. These individuals are responding to the world around them based on external stimuli (extrinsic values) and their responses may include violence.
Being significant is a higher level of self-governance. It's governing oneself based on reasonable internal values and sound ethical principles. It is the involvement of higher thinking level, reasoning and decision making, which lead one to becoming a positive, significant entity in society. This can only be accomplished through the achievement of basic education. Our public educational system has implied that one can become significant without the successful completion of basic education. This is a lie. When people cannot read, critically evaluate, articulate their feelings or opinions, their self-worth is at a critical low.
Individuals who did not have an opportunity to learn how to read or write but still value the need for education often regret that they did not have the opportunity to learn how to read or write and find ways to make up their deficiencies through an intelligent approach to life.
Research indicates that educational reform does reduce crime. It is imperative to understand that a major component of education includes not only making students but making teachers and administrators accountable for success or failure. Teaching methodologies, principals' and teachers' attitudes and skills, are at the core to educational reform. When teachers and school principals are held accountable for the outcome of their students, I believe we will begin to see a difference in our community. The kind of accountability for school principals may include not increasing salaries if a school receives a low-grade rating and releasing a principal if a school has a low grade rating for more than three years.

o Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, U.S.A. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com; write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas; or visit www.soencouragement.org; or call 327-1980 or 477-4002.

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