Nassau Guardian Stories
Police said the shooting took place shortly after 7 p.m. on Roland Street, off Boyd Road.
According to preliminary police reports, the elderly man was approached by a man armed with a gun upon his arrival at his home.
Police said the gunman was attempting to rob the elderly man of his vehicle.
Police said the victim was taken to hospital by emergency medical services personnel. He is said to be detained in stable condition.
Police are appealing to members of the public who may have any information on the shooting to contact police anonymously at 328-TIPS. Individuals can also call police at 911,919, or the Central Detective Unit (CDU) at 502-9991.
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Walker, a nurse and patient safety and risk manager with over 30 years experience, replaces Acting Hospital Administrator Dorothy Hepburn, according to a press release from the PHA.
Herbert Brown, managing director of the PHA, said Walker's appointment is an important addition to PMH.
"Her appointment comes at a time when PMH embarks on a new period of growth and development, in tandem with the PHA and government's mandate to improve clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and the provision of safe patient care," Brown said in the release.
"In extending our support to Mary Walker, we also wish to applaud and express our profound gratitude to Acting Hospital Administrator Dorothy Hepburn who served following the departure of Mrs. Coralie Adderley, former chief hospital administrator.
"The board of the authority is also appreciative of the executive management team and the entire staff of the Princess Margaret Hospital for their dedication, efficiency and commitment during this transition period."
Walker has served as a staff nurse, nursing officer, infection control, assistant manager and environmental safety manager according to the release.
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In 2009, then Minister of State for Immigration Branville McCartney said that 37 shanty towns had been identified in New Providence alone.
The government has commissioned various studies on the shanty town problem.
The most recent report on shanty towns obtained by The Nassau Guardian was completed a few weeks ago by a team of researchers from the Department of Environmental Health, but has not yet been made public by the minister responsible (Kenred Dorsett) or ministry officials.
What those researchers have unearthed should be of concern to every Bahamian.
There has been 'a marked increase' in the number of new shanty towns on New Providence over the last two years and the populations have increased "exponentially".
The report said, "There is little to no government water systems, no garbage collection services, and very little human waste disposal, which can range from satisfactory to the other extreme of placing human feces in plastic shopping bags, and dumping waste in nearby bushes and naturally occurring sink holes."
In New Providence alone, the team documented at least 15 shanty towns at various locations, but primarily in the south west and eastern areas of the island.
With houses having been built too close together, with some homes being powered by stolen electricity connected by low hanging wires, and with large communities with inadequate or no sewerage systems, these shanty towns are public health hazards.
For some reason, especially in New Providence, the agencies of the government responsible for policing this problem have failed.
More aggressive action on this problem is needed for the sake of the Haitians living in shanty towns and for the Bahamians who live nearby.
When proper sanitation and safety protocols are not followed, mass tragedy could ensue from fire or disease.
For the Bahamians who live near shanty towns, their property values are reduced because of the unsanitary communities next door. This is unfair to hardworking, honest citizens of the country.
The problem is, in part, that governments of The Bahamas have been unable to regulate effectively the flow of people from the failed Haitian state. Those looking for a better life have just set up communities on any vacant land.
Once the illegal structures are built, for humanitarian reasons, it is hard to destroy them. Where do you send the poor and stateless once their homes are removed?
We must not let genuine concern for our brothers and sisters from the south overrule common sense, however. Illegally built shanty towns need to be removed.
Those migrating to The Bahamas must find legal and safe accommodation. We cannot continue to ignore this problem. It is a matter of law, order and public safety.
No one in this country should be allowed to ignore public health and town planning regulations. The laws exist to keep us safe and to protect property rights.
The government should next move to rigorously enforce the public health and property laws being violated by many who reside in shanty towns across the country.
Hopefully Dorsett was sincere when he said this administration intends to.
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As the government approached its one year anniversary in power, at the urging of various talk show hosts, all and sundry, it seems; eagerly called in to voice their opinion on the Progressive Liberal Party's performance thus far. For the most part, public opinion seems to be indicating an unambiguous negative assessment, so much so that it must have given die-hard supporters much concern for their beloved party, which was barely, 365 days ago, swept into office with a commanding majority of the seats in Parliament.
Folk freely gave their opinions on everything from crime, the failed mortgage relief program, education to national health insurance. I heard very few persons commenting on what I consider to be the single most important issue facing this country today: The issue of oil exploration and production. Sometimes it is useful to look at things in very simple terms. Ecclesiastes 10:19 says in part: "Money answereth all things". So, if the government wants to provide the police with more and better equipment to aid in the fight against crime, it will cost money. If the government wants to bring true mortgage relief to the nation's struggling homeowners, it will cost more money. If the government truly wants to double its investment in education, it will cost even more money. And, if the government wishes to proceed down the path of nationalizing health care, it will cost untold amounts of money.
Problem number one, our government does not have a lot of money. In fact, due to decades of spending more than it has been receiving in revenue our government and country is firmly on the path to becoming a financial basket case. Our principal revenue producer, tourism, is certainly not living up to our expectations. What then is the only realistic solution? Oil production. This revenue stream has the potential to earn our country huge sums of money and solve the myriad of financial problems now facing The Bahamas.
This issue is so straight forward to me that I am beginning to seriously wonder why on earth any government duly elected by the people would think it necessary to put it to a referendum. The government does not propose to put the implementation of VAT (value added tax) to a referendum. VAT is all about increasing government revenue. Oil production is all about increasing government revenue. The government needs revenue to operate and continue providing essential services and build the country's infrastructure. This is all very, very simple. Why subject something so simple to a referendum? Maybe one of these days the answer will come, but today I must quote my 13-year-old child, "I don't get it".
-- Welly Forbes
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I wonder if Mr. Fred Mitchell (PLP), minister of immigration and foreign affairs, would care to let the public know how many expatriates work for government ministries, agencies and departments including consultancies?
It would appear it's far easier for him to demonize the foreign investor, rather than fixing public education and those areas where the government fails us. The latter takes effort while the former simply plays on emotions without reason.
Political posturing does not put bread on the table. Economic growth, fueled by foreign direct investment, ideas and skills we do not have or wish to utilize is what makes us better off.
Obviously a different standard applies for some in the political class than mere taxpayers and wealth creators. The difference is the government can use the skills of the foreigner as they wish without having to conform to the restraints they place on the rest of us.
The Bahamas is a wealthier place today as a result of free trade, and while other countries such as China, after decades of economic failure, turn to ideas that made the West better off, Mr. Mitchell seems to think that being insular is now the key to economic growth.
It won't take long for the tangled web being weaved to become a straight jacket that slows the economy even more.
-- Rick Lowe
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I write in response to Mr. Philip Galanis, who wrote on consumer protection in his column Consider This, appearing in the Monday, April 15th edition of The Nassau Guardian.
Dear Mr. Galanis, I have just completed reading your article in and felt obligated to respond. It would appear we have a shared interest, namely, greater protection for the Bahamian consumer.
As you may be aware, I have been involved in the field of consumer protection for many years, having published Consumerism Today magazine for ten of those years. The motto of the magazine incidentally, was "developing a more educated, better-informed consumer."
I know and appreciate what needs to be done to address the legitimate concerns that you addressed. For starters, the Consumer Protection Commission, provided for by the 2006 Consumer Protection Act, has never been established. The Bahamas is being used as a dumping ground for inferior products, including food, fuel and wrecked vehicles, principally because we have never had a bureau of standards.
I still feel strongly about these and other issues of redress on behalf of Bahamian consumers. One that comes readily to mind is the need for an amendment to the Legal Professions Act, so as to empower the Bar Association of The Bahamas to be able to issue annual practicing certificates to members of the Bahamian Bar in good standing. This would help in mitigating against the unscrupulous preying on the unsuspecting.
Vehicle theft is another area of grave concern, and after having my vehicle stolen, and meeting with the CDU, and speaking with local insurers, the practice of reinsuring stolen vehicles leaves much to be desired.
In this regard, the vehicle titling system is an excellent idea, but should be coupled with the creation of a secure database, and mandated collaboration between local insurers, the vehicle theft section of CDU, and the Road Traffic Department.
Mr. Galanis, I have also observed a marked deterioration in respect for the price control regulations of The Bahamas, particularly by our major food stores. It has become common practice, when an item appears with two prices affixed, to be forced by management to pay the higher price, this despite the fact that the law mandates that the lower price be paid by the consumer.
Computerized bar code scanners are also being used to take advantage of struggling Bahamians. If a price is affixed to an item, but it scans for a higher price, management of these stores is insisting that the scanned price is the correct price, and not the price tag affixed. This also is against the law. It would appear then, that a consumer information and education program, based on our applicable laws, is not only needed for our consumers, but also for the management of major food stores, who appear more interested in abiding by the policies of their respective establishments, than by the laws of The Bahamas.
The problems with land in this country are legend, and is not only negatively impacting ordinary Bahamians, without the means to take their matters before the Privy Council, but is also tarnishing the international reputation of our country. But this too is a consumer protection issue. I am therefore of the considered view, that a ministry of consumer affairs would go a long way in not only highlighting these many deficiencies, but more importantly in leading the inter-disciplinary and ministerial charge that is now required, so as to avoid these issues being continually kicked down the road, and never being comprehensively addressed.
-- Lavade Darling
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- Benjamin Disraeli
A year ago, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the general elections with 48.6 percent of the popular vote, while the Free National Movement (FNM) polled 42.1 percent. The winner did not receive a mandate from the majority of votes cast, principally because the relatively new Democratic National Alliance (DNA) garnered 8.6 percent of the vote. Although there was an impressive turnout of 92 percent of the registered voters, the Bahamian people voted for a change, only the second time in history they decided to replace the government after a single term in office.
Last week, we examined whether, during the past year, the reality of the government lived up to its campaign promises. We concluded that most Bahamians were unable to point to many successes of the first year of the second Christie administration, which should serve as a wake-up call for the PLP. In the interest of presenting a balanced view of the two major political parties, this week we would like to Consider This...how has the Official Opposition performed in its first year in opposition?
The Opposition's scorecard to date
In brief, the Opposition's performance in this first year has been neither remarkable nor impressive. In fact, it is fair to say that the Official Opposition has been unable to capitalize as it should have on the uninspiring performance of the governing party, becoming one of the weakest Official Oppositions in recent Bahamian history.
Shortly after he was unanimously elected the Leader of the FNM on May 10, 2012, also making him the Leader of the Official Opposition, Dr. Hubert Minnis promised in his inaugural address that: "For our part, we pledge to work with the government in the best interest of the Bahamian people. At times, this may require that we oppose what we believe is not in the national interest. We will not oppose for the sake of opposing. But we will oppose, without hesitation and vigorously, what we believe is harmful to the general welfare and common good of the Bahamian people. We will also stand guard over, and be ever ready to protect, the constitutional rights and freedoms of all Bahamians." Well said, but let us closely examine whether the Opposition remained loyal to that pledge. To date, so said, but not done.
An early test came when the government introduced the Constitutional Referendum (Amendment) Bill in Parliament, which was necessary because, without it, the government could not legally conduct a referendum on any subject other than a constitutional issue. Without this amendment, the voice of the people would have been silenced because the people could not legally be consulted, by referendum, on any pressing national issue unless it pertained to the constitution. The Official Opposition opposed this amendment and in so doing, confirmed, firstly, that it did not believe that a non-constitutional referendum should be held and, secondly, that it was content to see the voice of the people stifled in all other important national issues.
The second test came when the Official Opposition initially vowed to support the referendum questions to regulate and tax web shops or to establish a national lottery, then, at the last minute, reversed itself by encouraging Bahamians to vote no to both referendum questions.
Then shortly after the referendum questions were defeated, in a third test, the Official Opposition flip-flopped on its earlier position by opposing the government's alleged intention to allow casinos to conduct online gambling for tourists, claiming that Bahamians should be afforded the same rights as the casinos. This is precisely what would have been permitted by supporting the very same referendum questions that the FNM vociferously opposed several months earlier.
The fourth test of the Opposition's commitment not to oppose for the sake of opposing arose during the recent debate on the bill that provided for making Majority Rule day a public holiday. Although it supported the Majority Rule Bill, several Opposition members of Parliament argued that we should do so only by eliminating one of the other public holidays because it felt that to create another public holiday would not be in the public interest. Their non-sequitur arguments were unimpressive and lacked substance.
Finally, following receipt of the long-awaited forensic report on the National Insurance Board (NIB), portions of that report were reportedly leaked to some segments of the press.
The forensic accountants concluded that excessive, authorized bonuses were paid to certain NIB executives. This week, the leader of the Opposition publically stated that the bonuses might be justifiable.
In our view, it would have been far more appropriate and less impetuous for the leader of the Opposition, who admitted not having seen the forensic report, to have said he will comment once he has had an opportunity to review it. But such are the missteps of persons who are still in their apprenticeship period in such a monumental task as that of leader of the Opposition, especially someone who has not had any appreciable apprenticeship period nor any real political mentor as our former and present prime ministers had.
In fairness to the Official Opposition, only four of the current eight Opposition members of Parliament, namely Dr. Minnis, Mrs. Loretta Butler Turner and Messrs. Edison Key and Neko Grant have had prior Parliamentary experience. The other four Opposition members are new to Parliament. Like many of their counterparts in the PLP, the missteps of the Official Opposition this past year resulted as much from the inexperience of its members as it did from the issues which it misguidedly elected to oppose.
To his credit and chagrin, Dr. Minnis is attempting to lead a highly fractured party, which is comprised of numerous competing factions. Some of these factions are determined to undermine his leadership style which is characterized by a sincere desire to radically reengineer the political culture of a party which, for 20 years, was led by a maximum leader whose personal mantra could be summarized as "my way or the highway". The contrast in leadership styles between Messrs. Ingraham and Minnis are as different as they are discernible. Dr. Minnis, like Mr. Christie, is a consensus builder.
Although, to date, his vision appears to be as vacuous and opaque as Mr. Ingraham's was determined and transparent, Dr. Minnis is challenged by a weak and largely inexperienced team that seems to lack any focus other than to oppose for the sake of opposing.
Despite these observations regarding the current Opposition leader, he is a great improvement in the civility that is required of our 21st century polity. We believe that, as he matures in his new role, Dr. Minnis will increasingly find his footing.
The reality is that, notwithstanding the missteps, mishaps and mistakes of the government, thus far we are unable to itemize many successes of the Official Opposition in this new Parliamentary term.
The Official Opposition, like the government, should stop and take stock now to ensure that, notwithstanding the seeds of discontent that have already been sewn in its first year, it is not too late to reverse its performance if it hopes to reap an abundant crop of votes in 2017.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The program, which commenced on December 5, 2012 and ended on the January 18, 2013 met its goal "to assist businesses that were deeply impacted during the road work improvement project" said Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis.
According to the minister of state, 248 businesses applied for assistance and over 229 qualified under the plan that was not tied to any information previously submitted to the government. He further stated that of the $15 million allocated, $3 million was set aside for micro loans to assist with operational costs such as inventory replenishment.
Under the plan, businesses had to produce evidence that they were in operation during the period of the road works and located on a corridor impacted by full or partial road closure. Qualified applicants benefitted from the seven components of the plan involving multiple agencies of the government.
The components of the compensation plan were as follows:
o Bahamas Electricity Corporation Plan: Consists of three categories of business owners impacted by the road works project. Customers in good standing, disconnected customers, and closed businesses;
o Bahamas Customs plan: This plan consists of a deferment of customs duties on equipment or inventory bought for the business for a period of sixty days;
o Property tax plan: This consists of a rebate/discount of 50% of the accumulated property tax due;
o Business license plan: A rebate/discount of 50% which has been accumulated during the road works project;
o The Bahamas Broadcasting Corporation Plan: This plan consists of various discounted rates for cumulative advertising costs;
o Micro loan facility: The maximum loan amount is $10,000.00. The interest rate was prime rate, which is currently 4.75. The maximum term of the loan facility is 3 years with interest only payments for the first year and principal and interest payments will commence at the end of the first year.
o National Insurance Board.
Qualified applicants received from the Ministry of Finance a certificate of enrollment indicating the nature and extent of the assistance to be provided. This certificate is then presented to the relevant government agencies for relief and compensation as specified on the certificate.
The Ministry of Finance revealed that a diverse range of businesses were approved for compensation ranging from large, medium and small businesses such as liquor stores, restaurants, barber shops, hair salons, pet shops, beauty supply stores, fast food vendors and schools just to name few.
Halkitis was not shy about his satisfaction with the success of the program. "I am very satisfied with the program and the opportunity to bring relief to over 229 businesses, especially small businesses that might have had to close their doors. I am also satisfied the scores of jobs that were saved."
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Larry Roberts, CEO of Bahamas Realty, estimates that 90 percent of the construction that's being undertaken in the capital is as a result of the redevelopment of the Lynden Pindling International Airport, construction of the $3.6 billion Baha Mar resort and the New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP).
"These three things that have been going on really are the catalysts that are going to help grow the economy. Let's just hope that developers will piggyback on that development that's going on. We are already starting to see some of that," he explained.
"Thank God for Baha Mar. Between that, the new airport, and all of the road works, you're looking at 90 percent of the construction that's going on in the country and thank goodness that all of that has been happening during this slow period."
Roberts believes the tide has turned and the U.S. economy seems to be on the road to economic recovery.
The Bahamas is sure to follow and see some major improvements within the next 12 months.
"Fortunately for the world, the U.S. economy seems to be on the road to recovery and historically The Bahamas has followed the U.S. market by about six to 12 months. So we're very hopeful and bullish about the rest of this year. The market is improving and I feel as though certainly within the next 12 months we should start to see some improvement," he shared.
Meantime, Roberts is looking to push the hospitality side of his real estate business, because as it stands there is no local commercial real estate firm with that focus. It's an opportunity, Roberts pointed out to Guardian Business that The Bahamas is currently missing out on.
"I think the revenue that this sector of the business can bring is unlimited. The opportunity is there, we just have to go after it," he revealed.
"I think an area where we could be much more proactive is in the hospitality side of the business. There is no local commercial real estate company that is focused on hospitality, that's servicing all those businesses that cater to tourists - hotels being the main ones."
"It could be marinas or attraction parks. It's certainly an area that we are concentrating on and we have actually formed a hospitality group within our region. Because it's such a new offering for us, we don't necessarily have all of the expertise locally in that area, but we do have it through our affiliation with NAI."
His comments to Guardian Business come as NAI Bahamas Realty, Bahamas Realty's commercial division, wrapped its NAI Regional Conference last week with top realtors, representing nine countries.
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Shane Gibson, minister of labour and national insurance, confirmed to Guardian Business on Friday that the agency will provide workers with the skills needed to secure and maintain jobs.
According to him a recent report indicated that 60 percent of Bahamian workers were terminated from their jobs because of their attitudes. With the national training agency, it's a trend that Gibson is hoping to reverse.
Currently, Labour officials are meeting with various employers and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer's Confederation (BCCEC) to determine the areas where there are skill shortages.
"We are finding there is a difficulty with retaining employees. In fact, in a recent report, 60 percent of persons who were terminated from a job were terminated as a result of attitude problems. We're looking to see how we can reverse that trend. The National Training Agency will act as the referral assessment agency where they will come in, assess them and refer them to different areas," he said.
"We are framing the National Training Agency so that we are able to provide as many of the skilled workers necessary to take advantage of the opportunities that [are] either on stream or coming on stream."
The National Training Agency will also act as a job placement agency.
"We tabled the bill in Parliament. Before the budget debate, we're hoping to get down to debating that bill. Once we are done debating that bill, we are looking at bringing the first couple hundred individuals through the training agency between the middle of June or July. It's something we are very excited about," according to Gibson.
In the 2012 Labour Force Survey, which was conducted in May and referenced the last few days of April, the unemployment rate among young people ages 15 to 24 stood at 29.4 percent, a decline of 4.6 percent over the six months since the previous survey was taken.
The survey also showed that unemployment dropped from 15.9 percent to 14.7 throughout the country.
Last year, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced that in the near future the government will launch a national training agency aimed at creating a certified workforce to help replace jobs lost.
The Department of Labour is in the process of reviewing how it issues labor certificates, even before a work permit is applied for, so that applicants won't be able to abuse the system.
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BREA President Franon Wilson is saluting RBC FINCO's "We will meet you almost anywhere" campaign.
He believes the campaign will put BREA members in a "much better position to make homeownership a reality for the public" for several reasons including discounted rates, interviews conducted outside of the bank and the pre-approval process.
"Under this program, there is a discounted rate. This will allow people to either qualify for more money or have a lower mortgage payment. For many people, getting to the bank for an interview and back to work in an hour is a challenge. FINCO will send the loan officers to the people. This is addressing a hurdle for many people," he explained.
"Pre-approval is arguably the most important part of the campaign. The public will be able to confirm what they can qualify for before they start to look for their lot or house. BREA members will be in a much better position to address the needs and more importantly manage expectations of potential lot and home owners."
He continued, "BREA looks forward to its members working with FINCO to reach their campaign goals. BREA encourages the public to move now and take advantage of this special offer."
The "We will meet you almost anywhere" campaign is expected to highlight the flexibility of the bank's mortgage specialists and feature two mortgage products, the conventional residential mortgage and the residential lot (land) loan.
The conventional residential mortgage is used for the purchase or construction of a home that will be occupied by the owner and the residential lot (land) loan is structured for residential land purchase with the purpose of constructing an owner-occupied home eventually.
Deborah Zonicle, RBC's marketing manager, pointed out that the campaign aims to communicate to prospective home owners that they can find convenience and top-notch expertise at RBC.
"RBC realizes that the acquisition of a home is usually the biggest investment a person makes in their lifetime. It is an exciting time, but we also realize it can be a very stressful time. Through providing sound advice, support and convenience, RBC wants to reduce the anxiety that so often goes into such a significant undertaking of property ownership," she explained.
During the campaign, sales teams at RBC FINCO and RBC Royal Bank branches will offer the flexibility to meet prospective home owners anywhere they request and at any time that is most convenient for them.
The campaign has been launched throughout The Bahamas and in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Highlights of the campaign include attractive mortgage rates, reduced legal fees and pre-approved credit cards and consumer loans. All clients who are interested in obtaining a mortgage or land loan will receive a "pre-qualification" certificate.
This allows persons to go house or property hunting with ease and with a full understanding of what loan amount they can qualify for.
Customers whose mortgage applications are approved during the three-month campaign period will also be automatically entered to win prizes including appliances, furniture or free mortgage payments.
The campaign will run until August 31.
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NAI Bahamas Realty Commercial, the commercial division of Bahamas Realty, hosted the NAI Global Regional Conference, designed to gather members together from the region to discuss potential business opportunities in each country.
"For example, we have a couple of exciting opportunities here at the moment for which we are reaching out to our NAI family for help in finding developers," according to Larry Roberts, CEO of both NAI Bahamas Realty and Bahamas Realty. "For example, we have the Union Wharf property listed for sale. We need a developer for that. Where is that developer going to come from? So I reach out to my members and I say can you help me? Let's find the developer who has the professional expertise, the capital to make things like that happen. That's just one example. We came from a meeting where we were looking at a project in Panama with similar needs. We're very excited to have our regional members come and see us."
Delegates hailed from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Panama, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and The Bahamas.
Roberts told reporters at the conference's closing luncheon at the Luciano's of Chicago restaurant on Friday that he was honored to host the conference, marking the first time it has ever been held in The Bahamas.
"All of those countries comprise our region. We work together to encourage and develop business in our respective countries," he shared. "So the purpose of this meeting is for all of us to get together and see how we can better serve our customers and encourage more business for our region. It also gives us a chance to share opportunities."
NAI Global has 33 offices in 13 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, offering from traditional brokerage, NAI appraisals, portfolio management, audit and investment services and hospitality consulting.
It's one of the world's leading providers of commercial real estate services with a network of over 5,000 professionals.
"We feel that we are in a much better position than our competitors because we have the global reach. By being a part of this global company, we are able to tap into the resources that the company and the membership has," according to Roberts.
Bahamas Realty Commercial joined NAI Global two years ago as its exclusive member for The Bahamas.
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Fidelity's efficiency ratio, which measures the percentage of revenue consumed by operating expenses, improved to 52 percent from 67 percent in Q1 2012. Its share price increased to $2.75, or by 31 percent, during the quarter reflecting the improving fundamentals of the bank.
Anwer Sunderji, Fidelity's chief executive officer said, "Total assets grew to $411 million from $387 million at year-end 2012 and loan assets increased to $284 million. Liquidity remained robust with the loan to deposit ratio at a comfortable 86 percent." He added, "The bank made additional loan loss provisions during the quarter of nearly $1.2 million and the pace of provisioning is likely to continue for the balance of the year."
Sunderji continued, "Save for the deteriorating asset quality, we are pleased with the bank's results for the quarter."
Fidelity is a 75 percent held subsidiary of Fidelity Bank & Trust International Limited with the balance owned by the Bahamian public. It is a bank holding company incorporated in The Bahamas with licensed retail banking subsidiaries in The Bahamas and the Cayman Islands. It operates primarily in the personal banking segment and has consolidated assets of over $600 million.
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It was the first chapter in a book that turned out very differently. Today MCR, Mario Carey Realty, is perhaps the fastest growing real estate firm in The Bahamas and Carey, whose son has autism, serves as the very active president of the autism support group, REACH, while taking a new approach to real estate management. It is paying off.
This week, he announced the appointment of nine licensed professionals, each of whom joined in recent months and all of whom share a common title new to the industry, independent contractors.
Together, they bring the total MCR staff complement to 22, including three in the appraisal department. New agents include Raymond Antonio, Marcus Bain, Lisa Carroll, Mark Carter, Katherine Jarman-Knowles, Osano Neely, J. Brooke Phillips, Andrew Seymour and Tristan White.
"We are very excited about the energy and enthusiasm that each of these agents brings to the profession," said Carey, CIPS, CRS, CLHMS. "We are also pleased that because of the change in the BREA (Bahamas Real Estate Association) code, we are able to draw on talent that has other interests."
Raymond Antonio, Carey noted, comes from a background in financial services, having specialized in property lending at two of the country's largest banks, now combining that experience with property appraisals. Marcus Bain serves in a triple role - in-house photographer, personal assistant to Carey and one of the newest licensed agents. Lisa Carroll, active in her children's school and devoted mother, believes her early business experience followed by family helps her understand buyers' needs. She also works as the firm's office administrator.
"Mark Carter, for instance, has years of experience in marketing and media coming from a media empire, Carter Marketing, and his experience will add to our marketing team's efforts," says Carey. "Brooke, who comes from a business management background, is certified in residential staging and with her partner, Ashley Brown, also an agent with MCR, has a new and exciting staging business, Upstage Bahamas, which may bring clients to MCR. Osana Neely is ambitious. At 18, he wants to be known as the youngest real estate agent in The Bahamas, believing that others who are young and perhaps looking at buying their first property will identify with him. And Andrew, who is studying accounting at [The College of The Bahamas], also works at the nightclub Aura at Atlantis. We also have Tristan White, who is a real estate agent but is working as a social media specialist in our marketing department. Kathy Knowles, who co-heads the property management division, has been in development for 15 years and holds Certified International Project Management certification. For the past year, she served as project manager-administration for the new extension of the [Princess Margaret] Hospital for the last year."
All the new agents, said Carey, have a common thread.
"They all understand the importance of social media and they all recognize that you can be working at real estate 24 hours, 7 days a week. We have moved past Monday-Friday with banking hours in a profession that is conducted in the first search largely online. It is a new day and I am thrilled that our MCR agents understand the importance of the Internet and personal attention. We want to ensure that every agent, whatever market they are focusing on, understands that it is all about personal service and living up to our slogan, 'We Sell Luxury.'"
Carey's approach is also earning accolades from the international real estate community. MCR was recently awarded the highest status by www.LuxuryRealEstate.com, becoming the youngest and one of only a few firms in The Bahamas to qualify for the prestigious Who's Who certification benefitting those who list properties with them. Carey has called that award the 'Oscars of the real estate industry'."
MCR is a boutique company that handles sales, leasing, appraisals, property management, relocation and vacation rentals, and Carey specializes in luxury properties in Ocean Club Estates and Baha Mar, the New Bahamian Riviera.
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BISX Chief Executive Keith Davies commented on the visit. "Young people are our future investors, and they bring such a unique perspective to discussions, so we not only talk about investing and stocks, but we also branch out to talk about education, especially their next step in their life, into college or another path. More than a few years have passed since I was a high school student, and it is easy to forget the concerns of young people at that stage in their educational, professional and financial life. Giving them advice on saving, investing and education is great from a social point of view. However, it is also smart business, because this generation is the first generation that will grow up having always been familiar with a stock exchange. BISX is only 13 years old, and these young people will mature along with our nation's stock exchange."
Davies went on to add. "I would like to say a special thank you to Mrs. Shandica Sweeting at Doris Johnson and Mrs. Monique Carnegie-Scavella at Queen's College for inviting us to speak to their classes. What I appreciate the most about this was that this was our second time speaking to one of Mrs. Sweeting's classes and the third time speaking to one of Mrs. Scavella's classes. They have decided that discussing saving and investing should be a part of their students curriculum, and we are only too happy to assist. This is a great commitment on behalf of these teachers. I would also like to thank the students for being so eager and willing to participate."
He continued, "Over the past five years, we have had the opportunity to speak to a number of schools in Nassau about the exchange. In the next academic year, we plan to also speak to schools in Grand Bahama, and utilizing modern technology, we hope to be able to speak to other schools throughout The Bahamas over alternative communication technologies such as Skype."
Davies went on to explain that BISX welcomed any opportunity to speak to students who were preparing for the BGCSE exams, as well as those students who were moving towards graduation and on into the work force. Completing his remarks Davies stated, "An educated investor base is essential to a proper capital market. The time and energy we put into educating students like those at Doris Johnson Senior High School and Queen's College will create a whole new group of informed future investors who will seek to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in the Bahamian capital markets."
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Miller said the corporation's records indicate that the majority of those customers have bills under $2,000.
He said after meetings with Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis and officials in BEC's Consumer Affairs Division a plan is being implemented to assist Bahamians get back on the grid.
"I have given them a mandate as was enunciated by our minister, Philip Brave Davis, that it is the government's wish and his personal wish that no Bahamian be without electricity," Miller said.
"We are going to go on a very intensive public relations program to get every single Bahamian, who is right now without electricity, to be on.
"We are hoping to do that during the month of May. Come June 1, if not all Bahamians, the majority of them will be on with a scheme they can afford."
All customers on the new plan must keep up with the future bills once connected, and could even receive a five to 10 percent reduction on the outstanding bill, Miller said.
He gave an example that a customer who owes $2,000 would be reconnected upon paying $400.
A customer with a bill of $3,000 or less will be expected to pay a "fair amount", while a customer with a bill of $4,000 must pay 25 percent.
Miller previously revealed that around half of BEC's customers who signed up for the former administration's electricity assistance program ahead of the 2012 general election did not need to utilize it to the extent they did.
He said those customers, many of whom were in the "upper income bracket", ultimately had a negative impact on BEC's bottom line.
The program, which was intended to provide relief and generate revenue from delinquent and returning customers, had the opposite effect because many households that could afford their bills, spread their payments out over the full length of the program, Miller said.
More than 5,000 households that were without electricity had their supply restored after registering for the up to three-year plan, which was launched on February 9 last year.
Reconnection fees were also waived to the tune of $80,000.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has suggested that the last BEC initiative was a Free National Movement (FNM) election ploy.
Miller recently said management was in the process of restructuring that program, shifting those who can afford to pay more, on a more "restricted program".
"Those less fortunate may still go on the three-year plan or that may be really reconfigured for a 24-month period," Miller said in March.
"Those who can afford to pay will probably go on a 12 to 18-month [payment] period to enable them to pay their bills at BEC."
Asked how the financially strapped corporation could afford to supply power to thousands of additional customers without them fully paying their bills, Miller said, "If you're off, you're not paying anything anyway.
"We are trying to incentivize them to come in and sit with our personnel to pay their bills in whatever manner they can that is reasonable."
Miller estimated that the corporation stands to lose $40 million this year.
BEC lost $18 million last year.
He insisted on Thursday that the new assistance program does not apply to commercial customers, whom he said owe BEC in excess of $50 million.
He revealed that one business owes the corporation $10 million.
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National Insurance Shane Gibson said yesterday it was "disgraceful" for Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis to attempt to justify why social security money was used to pay hefty bonuses at NIB.
"I am just shocked that Dr. Hubert Minnis, who I have
the highest respect for,
would say something like that," said Gibson, who was a guest on "Darold Miller Live" on Guardian Radio 96.9 FM.
"You could imagine [NIB Director Algernon Cargill], whose salary is $172,000, made $140,000 in bonus. That's only one year.
"And for the leader of the Opposition to come on national radio and give the impression that there is nothing wrong with it, I cry shame on that.
"That is disgraceful. Customs officers could say 'listen here, we are at the borders collecting money and we collected all the money, now give us a bonus'."
As previously reported, eight NIB executives and one person on contract collectively received bonuses of $723,333 between January 2010 and May 2012, with Cargill taking home $194,791.66 in bonuses during that period, according to information on NIB's files.
"These things are shocking," Gibson said.
"They had a checkbook that was sitting in the drawer of one of the secretaries. The bonuses were not paid and sent to the bank like everything else.
"A check was written. It was sent to the bank and then under separate cover it was deposited to this one account to move on to the next. And then under separate cover, a letter would go out telling the bank how to distribute the bonuses.
"They kept it a secret among a couple of people. I am not going to say who signed the checks, but when you look at the checks there are basically only two persons signing the checks."
The NIB report, completed by Grant Thornton chartered accountants, found no evidence the bonuses and salaries paid to executive management personnel were approved by the minister responsible, who was former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.
Accountants did not interview Ingraham as part of their audit.
Minnis, who was a guest on "Darold Miller Live" on Tuesday, admitted he had not yet read the report. He said bonuses may have been paid based on the amount of revenue generated.
But Gibson said NIB is not designed that way and no one working there should have a private sector mentality regarding remuneration.
"It is unfortunate that it took the government to change before those things were exposed," Gibson said.
"Those bonuses were being paid for a while. I just believe that it is absolutely disgraceful that social security monies were used to pay bonuses.
"It is not like a private company where you generate profits. The only thing you are doing is what you are paid to do."
Before details on the NIB report were revealed by The Nassau Guardian, Minnis said he believed the government planned to use the report as ammunition against the former administration.
He said he believed the report reflected that they were on the "right track".
Gibson expressed a completely different opinion based on the findings in the report.
"They manipulated the system; a way of life for the Free National Movement is manipulation," he said.
He also took FNM Chairman Darron Cash to task.
In The Tribune this week, Cash was quoted as asking, "Where is the beef?"
He demanded that Gibson reveal the much touted "shocking" details of the probe.
"When Darron Cash says to you show me the beef, I am not surprised because if you look throughout their tenure in administration, their tenure is based on manipulation, and so it is just another day at the office.
"The man who has not built his tenure off manipulation looks at that and says how could you do that, how could you manipulate people to do these things?"
Gibson was referring to irregularities in the award of certain NIB contracts for various projects, as reported by accountants looking into NIB's affairs.
Cargill has until May 21 to report to the board of NIB, after which the board would recommend how to proceed with or without his input, Gibson reiterated.
He has promised to table the report in Parliament and to detail the cost of the NIB audit.
The director remains on suspension.
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Patterson was asked to respond to an article in The Nassau Guardian which revealed that police were investigating a hack of several online accounts held by web shop Island Luck.
"I don't know what's going on in our country anymore," said Patterson when asked what he thought of the police investigation.
"I have no idea. Everybody seems to be doing their own thing. Nobody seems to be doing their job.
"I am frustrated because nobody seems to care. If laws are being broken, I expect people to enforce the laws. I'm tired."
Police said that hackers reportedly withdrew an undetermined amount of cash from several online accounts attached to the web shop operation. Police said they received a complaint from an Island Luck official on Wednesday.
According to the information received, the computer system that controls Island Luck's online accounts was manipulated.
"We did arrest and question some employees of the web shops and some other people, but charges have not been filed," a senior officer told The Nassau Guardian.
Chartered accountant Philip Galanis, who served as a coordinator on a pro-gambling campaign earlier this year, said police had to investigate the complaint as web shops are "legitimate businesses".
"I don't see any contradiction at all in them responding to a complaint in as much as they are legally established, duly licensed agencies and have the right of the full protection of the law at all times," Galanis said.
"Until this matter is resolved in the court, I think the police are acting within their mandate to protect and serve the public and that applies to all legitimate business."
The police investigation comes amid ongoing discussion over the fate of web shops in the country.
Island Luck is among a group of web shop operators awaiting a matter in the Court of Appeal relating to whether they could continue their operations.
A recent warning from Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade that raids could happen any day has reportedly resulted in web shops seeing a significant falloff in business.
The substantive case before the Court of Appeal is expected to begin on May 24.
Galanis said he thinks web shop bosses are being discriminated against because they are black Bahamians.
"The web operators are being castigated and denigrated because they are young, black professional men who are seeking to enter into the mainstream economic activities of this country," he said.
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The 56-year-old is accused of committing a grossly indecent act by posting photographs that showed autopsy injuries of Jamie Smith, who died of asphyxia in police custody on February 8.
The photographs were posted on his Facebook page.
When he appeared before Deputy Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethell yesterday, Moncur was expecting to be served with a voluntary bill of indictment, which would expedite his case to the Supreme Court.
Moncur elected trial before a judge and jury at his arraignment in April.
However, ASP Ercell Dorsett said the Office of the Attorney General determined that the magistrate should have a preliminary inquiry to determine if there is enough evidence for a trial.
The decision angered Moncur who once again said he did not want Bethell to hear his matter.
Bethell transferred the matter to Magistrate Constance Delancy because her calendar is booked into December.
Delancy scheduled the preliminary inquiry to August 16 and allowed Moncur's $7,500 bail to remain in place.
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Gibson made his comments while a guest on the Guardian Radio talk show "Darold Miller Live".
"Of course I voted yes," he said. "People should have choices."
He said he was "disappointed" in the outcome of the referendum because Bahamians voted to uphold discrimination against themselves.
That referendum asked voters if they supported the regulation and taxation of web shops and the creation of a national lottery.
The question of whether Bahamians should be permitted to gamble in casinos was not on the ballot, however.
"I'm not going to go in the casino, shoot dice all night trying to win," Gibson said.
"I'm not going to play Black Jack. I'm not going to pull a slot machine handle trying to win money, and I'm not going to buy numbers.
"That's not me, but what I'm saying is I was disappointed that Bahamians themselves voted to have Bahamians discriminated against when they had an opportunity to say yes to gambling.
"I don't do it, but I believe in freedom of choices. There are some things you can't legislate."
When asked if he thought the government handled the failed referendum poorly, Gibson said, "Hindsight is 20/20," but stressed that Bahamians had the power to make a change with their votes earlier this year.
He said he did not understand the recent uproar over a draft Gaming Bill.
The majority of people who voted in the referendum voted no to both questions. However, less than 50 percent of the electorate voted.
"People had a chance in January to do what they are saying they want to do now," Gibson said.
"They are saying that now, but they had an opportunity; you don't have to worry about the process."
Gibson also said he had not seen the controversial draft Gaming Bill.
The Nassau Guardian revealed that the proposed legislation would allow people outside The Bahamas to gamble on a website established, maintained and operated by the holder of a local gaming license.
But they must be in a country or jurisdiction that permits online gaming.
The bill would also allow work permit holders and permanent residents to gamble in The Bahamas.
The prohibition against Bahamians gambling would continue.
Last week, Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said he thinks Bahamians should be allowed to gamble in local casinos.
"In terms of [whether] Bahamians should be in casinos, I feel yes, but that is my personal view."
He added: "Whatever is done you should ensure fair play to the Bahamian populace, and you should ensure that you truly believe in Bahamians.
"That is the most important thing."
Minnis had urged Bahamians to vote no in the gambling referendum, criticizing the process.
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