Business

Delivery of fixed broadband wireless services halted by URCA

April 27, 2015

Cable Bahamas already licenced to provide these services and believes competition is being 'stifled'...

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BICA backs auditor general, affirms need for AGO independence

April 26, 2015

The Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) has responded to the fracas surrounding the much-debated audit of the Urban Renewal Commission (URC), backing Auditor General Terrance Bastian and charging that the "integrity, independence and constitutionally-mandated responsibilities of the Office of the Auditor General should be supported by all public officials and citizens".
Some of the results of Bastian's audit of the URC have ignited a blizzard of accusations and counterclaims. Officials who work in the URC have accused the auditor general of being misled and misleading the public. The political leaders of the program - Co-chairs Algernon Allen and Cynthia "Mother" Pratt - have suggested that the audit was politically motivated, and other public officials as prominent as the attorney general herself have charged that the process was improper.
BICA President Darnell Osborne over the weekend ended the association's silence on the matter.
In a statement sent to Guardian Business, she said, "The Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants has taken note of public commentary in connection with an examination of the Urban Renewal home improvement program by the Office of the Auditor General.
"The role of the auditor general, as stipulated in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is essential to achieving the objectives of reporting on the fairness of public sector financial reports; compliance with applicable statutes and regulations; and a review of internal controls of public sector entities relative to the performance of the public sector in connection with public expenditures."
She said the association "strongly affirmed" that an independent audit function is fundamental to the transparency and accountability of the public sector. Such audits provide an unbiased and objective assessment of national expenditures and the adequacy of internal controls governing the process for making such expenditures.
"The integrity, independence and constitutionally-mandated responsibilities of the Office of the Auditor General should be supported by all public officials and citizens," Osborne said.
"BICA supports the auditor general, a chartered accountant, and the essential role the Office of the Auditor General performs in fulfilling its mandate to constructively assess the systems of internal controls governing public sector finances."
In her minute paper on whether or not the co-chairs of the URC had to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) - which they have yet to do - Attorney General Allyson Maynard Gibson said that the audit was allegedly done at the request of the PAC.
And in fact, PAC Chairman Hubert Chipman has been quoted in the press on numerous occasions promising a report on an audit into the Urban Renewal program.
Said the Attorney General, "While it is clear that the PAC, in the general performance of the duties allocated to it by the House, may require the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents, the purported exercise of this power in the instant case is ultra vires the powers and functions of the PAC, procedurally flawed, contrary to the statutory and constitutional principles regulating public finances, and raises the spectre of interference with the constitutional functions of the Auditor General."
She then explained that neither the PAC nor its chairman has any power to direct or request that the auditor general conduct a specific or particular audit of any government department or other body, and the procurement of an audit at the behest of the PAC or chairman is contrary to the constitutional functions and special immunity given to the auditor general under article 136(5) of the constitution.
She cited other ways in which the PAC's vaunted ability to send for "persons, papers and records" is circumscribed in this instance, but Guardian Business understands that the audit in question was not done at the request of the PAC or its chairman.
A source not authorized to speak publicly on the matter has confirmed that the audit of the Urban Renewal Commission was already on the auditor general's agenda, and that the audit was not done at the request of Chipman or anybody else. In fact, the Guardian Business source pointed out that Chipman may have requested an audit, but he could not direct that the auditor general conduct one for exactly the reasons Attorney General Allyson Maynard Gibson cited.
Guardian Business also understands that this audit - as with all others - was addressed to the permanent secretary of the ministry in question, in this case Diana Lightbourne, and copied to the financial secretary and the treasury. The copy sent to the PAC was apparently sent because that body was "an interested party".
The process followed with such matters, we understand, is that the report is discussed in draft form with the PS prior to its completion.
Guardian Business also understands that officers from the auditor general sat physically in the URC offices for two months as they conducted the audit.
The character of the reaction to the audit of the Urban Renewal Commission has surprised many.
Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation CEO Edison Sumner told Guardian Business over the weekend that the issue being played out "clearly demonstrates the need for the Freedom of Information Act and Fiscal Responsibility Act that we have been advocating for, for some time now".
"It also demonstrates the need for there to be a greater level of autonomy and independence in the office of the auditor general that is free from political influence and interference, as well as the need now to consider implementing the office of ombudsman who will be able to watch over the activities of the auditor general and other such authorities in the country," Sumner said.
"We appreciate that in all cases due process has to prevail, but one cannot ignore such reports, and corrective measures must be taken to be sure that what we are hearing and reading in the media regarding this matter does not happen again.
"There have to be checks and balances and someone has to be held accountable for the (mis-steps) identified by the auditor general. There has to be some justification to support his report, or evidence to prove otherwise."

Anti-corruption mechanisms
The Auditor General's Office is one of a number of agencies identified by the Organization of American States (OAS) as "oversight bodies" in The Bahamas; the Office of the Attorney General, the Public Disclosure Commission, the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Compliance Commission are the others.
These bodies are considered critical in ensuring the absence of corruption in the jurisdiction, or the identification and mitigation of such corruption once it is discovered.
The Bahamas signed the InterAmerican Convention Against Corruption (the Convention) on March 9, 2000 and ratified it on March 14, 2000. In addition, The Bahamas signed the Declaration on the Mechanism for Follow-up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption on June 4, 2001, on the occasion of the OAS General Assembly in San Jose, Costa Rica. This process - known as the MESICIC - has just completed its fourth round.
In 2005, the MESICIC Committee of Experts for the first round of follow-up made a number of recommendations designed to smooth the implementation of the convention and strengthen anti-corruption efforts by The Bahamas.
The Committee of Experts for the fourth round pointed out in their report in March 2015 that some of the recommendations made in the first round are still pending or have been reformulated to address issues such as: establishing or adapting and then implementing standards of conduct for those offices that currently do not fall under the purview of any controls, including adequate sanctions for violations of those standards; establishing reporting requirements for those public officials and employees who are currently not required to report to appropriate authorities acts of corruption in the performance of public functions; enacting a Freedom of Information Act that regulates and facilitates the access by the public to information in the control of public institutions; and notifying the OAS General Secretariat formally of the designation of the central authority, pursuant to the prescribed formalities.

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URCA orders CBL to 'cease and desist' building towers

April 26, 2015

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has ordered Cable Bahamas Ltd. (CBL) to "immediately cease and desist" construction of any electronic communications towers pending the results of an investigation into the need for the towers.
In a notice issued over the weekend, URCA issued an interim order halting the work of CBL and its subsidiaries on any new or preexisting towers in light of the "public nuisance" and environmental damage widespread construction could potentially cause the country.
"URCA has a responsibility to regulate the electronic communications sector in a manner which furthers the Electronic Communications Sector Policy objectives as set out in the Communications Act, which objectives include limiting public nuisance through electronic communications and limiting any adverse impact of electronic communications networks and carriage services on the environment.
"URCA has noted that CBL has been engaged in obtaining approvals for the construction of electronic communications towers and/or the actual construction of electronic communications tower structures in New Providence and Grand Bahama, without having justified to URCA the necessity of such towers, despite enquiries made and concerns expressed by URCA in that regard," read the statement.
The order, which will remain valid for either three months or until URCA completes its investigation, comes as CBL seeks approvals for cell towers in New Providence and Grand Bahama. URCA warned that it could take enforcement action under the Communications Act against CBL, one of the three remaining bidders for the country's second cellular license, should the cable provider refuse to comply.
"Therefore, by an interim order issued by URCA on April 17, 2015, CBL has been ordered to immediately cease and desist from erecting or completing any electronic communications towers anywhere in The Bahamas, pending URCA's conduct of a full investigation into the matter," read the statement.
URCA last year issued a series of proposed regulations designed to encourage infrastructure sharing (predominantly of cell towers) between the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and the incoming second provider. URCA argued that that infrastructure sharing would not only cut down on the aforementioned "public nuisance" associated with widespread construction, but also reduce start up costs for the second provider while facilitating a much faster launch of services.
However, CBL has been vocal in its need to construct its own cell towers on the basis of providing optimum service to its potential clients.
BTC officials have supported the policy, which would likely require the second license holder would then pay BTC a fee for the use of its preexisting towers. However, officials from rival bidder Digicel earlier expressed strong concerns with BTC's cell towers, claiming that towers constructed in the wake of URCA's proposed regulations had been deliberately designed to accommodate only one network. As a result, Digicel officials estimated that the necessary upgrades to allow adequate infrastructure sharing could cost upwards of $18,000 per tower on top of any long-term sharing fee. BTC has yet to address these concerns.
The government is expected to announce The Bahamas' second mobile service provider in May.

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ILO focuses on lack of opportunity for youth in region

April 26, 2015

At least 27 million young people in Latin America and the Caribbean currently work in conditions of informality, with six of every 10 jobs available to young people falling outside the formal reach of the law, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Elizabeth Tinoco, ILO regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, voiced concerns over the high figure during a recent regional ILO meeting in Lima, Peru, arguing that such poor quality jobs jeopardize future human capital development.
"Youth unemployment is very high in the region, but it's just the tip of the iceberg that hides the wider problem of a lack of opportunities for those who are just starting their productive lives," said Tinoco, as regional representatives of governments, employers and workers discussed policies to address the problem.
The ILO warned that the informal economy results from laws that discourage compliance because they are "inappropriate, burdensome or impose excessive costs".
Fifty six million young people aged 15-24 in Latin America and the Caribbean are in the workforce, just over half of the 108 million youths in the region. The ILO report indicated that six out of ten jobs available to young people are in the informal economy, which it believed exposed youths to a critical lack of job stability, future career prospects, and access to basic labor rights.
"We face a major political challenge, as high unemployment and informality create a scenario which leads to high levels of discouragement and frustration generated by the lack of opportunities," Tinoco said.
Thirteen percent of the region's youth remain unemployed, three times the rate of adults, The ILO estimates that over seven million young people fail to find a job.
"Most of these informal jobs for youth are generated in the informal economy, very often in small and microenterprises that are not part of the formal economy. But informal conditions also affect 32 percent of young workers in formal enterprises," reads an ILO statement.
Tinoco stressed the need for strengthening regional labor policies that take the needs of individual countries into account in tackling this issue, noting the limited success of "isolated measures" in the past.
The report to the meeting highlighted three areas in which labor informality in the region can be addressed:
o Measures and incentives to create the conditions for the development of formal jobs, including subsidies for business development and programs to expand youth employment and promote skills;
o Initiatives aimed at formalizing informal jobs and work units, including regularization schemes, labor inspection, and support to the formalization of microenterprises with low productivity; and
o Strategies to expand the coverage of social protection to informal workers, such as unemployment benefits, health insurance and maternity protection.
"Now we should move from concern to action in order to face the challenges of youth employment, especially at times of a slowing economy that could push up the rates of unemployment and informality," Tinoco said.

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BTC to lose 25M in roaming charges due to new agreements

April 26, 2015

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) stands to lose upwards of $25 million in roaming revenue for the year once it finalizes new bilateral agreements with U.S. and Canadian telecoms companies, according to BTC CEO Leon Williams.
Williams told NB12 that negotiations are ongoing with AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile and Canadian telecoms company Rogers Communications, which had previously threatened to prohibit their customers from roaming in The Bahamas over BTC's rates.
"We're working strategically with the roaming partners to form new bilateral agreements so there's a level of reciprocity where we charge one rate and we collect on their behalf, they charge another rate and collect on our behalf.
"That's one of the reasons why we're trying to manage our costs. We're looking at taking anything in the neighborhood of $25 million off of our balance sheet this year in roaming rates," he said.
Williams initially projected that the hit to roaming revenues would slash the company's year-end revenues from $52 million to $25 million a year once the dust settles.
Aside from losing in excess of $2 million a month on tweaked roaming charges, Williams said that changes to BTC's billing system for roaming customers would lead to further losses.
The news comes as BTC officials project that the country's second cellular company, due to be announced next month, could cost BTC 30 percent of its market share.
As BTC prepares for competition, Williams said that the company must do more to maximize on potential new revenue streams while striving to reduce costs. Williams said that the company is already seeking to diversify its product offerings through its broadband-based Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) while looking into new revenue sources, such as mobile money.
Williams said that mobile money, which allows customers to transfer funds via cellular devices without the need for a bank account, is a key area of interest as BTC adapts to the loss of its lucrative roaming revenue given the banking difficulties faced by many family island residents and the growing demand for remittance payment methods from the country's expat communities.
"There's a whole list of new revenue streams we're working on right now as part of our business plan to make up for the shortfall in roaming charges. Mobile money is definitely one of those. We've got a large unbanked and underbanked community, people in the Family Islands who have to come to Nassau to do banking.
"We've got to find ways in the country to assist those persons and the technology is here to do it," Williams said.

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Tourism minister anticipating new room inventory

April 26, 2015

Close to 3,000 hotel rooms, spread between five hotels, will soon be opened in The Bahamas. While the thrice-delayed opening of Baha Mar will keep the vast majority of rooms "in the pipeline", growing demand in Grand Bahama - and to a lesser extent Nassau/Paradise Island - means the room inventory will be eagerly anticipated.
STR Global, a renowned travel researcher and analyst, reported that at the end of March 2015, 2,670 rooms were "under construction" in The Bahamas, with 19 others in the "final planning" phase.
Yesterday, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe told Guardian Business the new and diverse inventory is "certainly welcome".
"We need more inventory to contend with the growing demand not only of the potential traveling public, but equally important because of the continuing need to create employment.
"The Bahamas has been somewhat sluggish in inventory growth while our competitors in the Caribbean have been robust in their growth. While The Bahamas has under 17,000 hotel rooms, Cuba and the Dominican Republic have more than 50,000 each, and Jamaica has more than 30,000. To improve the return on the investment that is made for the promotion of the sector, additional rooms will see a much higher yield," he said.
"The Bahamas must prepare for the future or again find itself on the roller coaster ride allowing our competitors to gain leverage offering diversity and greater appeal," the minister said.

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Y'all ga sweat! Part one

April 26, 2015

We find ourselves in the same situation every year. Winter is long gone. Summer is knocking at the door. Already it feels like it can hardly get any hotter. That means just one thing - y'all ga sweat!
But this year can be different for you. In our article today we discuss green solutions for letting you save money with your current air-conditioner. In part two, we'll discuss saving money with new solar air conditioners. That way, you can stop sweating because of the heat and stop sweating because of the electric bill.
One of the most elegant solutions is to add a retrofit, like a Smartcool, to your current unit. Smartcool retrofits already save an average 15 to 25 percent on air-conditioning energy costs in Bahamian homes and businesses. How does a retrofit do this? The principle is simple; as an air-condition cycles, sometimes it asks for more power than it needs to get the job done. Since your air conditioner does not recognize this, the retrofit technology automatically steps in and lets your unit run at its most efficient. This saves you money while maintaining the cool temperature you want!
In addition to retrofitting your air conditioner, Bahamians can take other steps to lower costs. When you turn off the air condition 15 to 30 minutes before you are ready to leave your home or business, the room will stay cool and you will save money. Over the course of a month, that can save you 15 hours of power! Additionally, checking your walls and windows for leaks will ensure your air-conditioner is not fighting the full force of the Bahamian summer. Leaks can be stopped with a good sealant or IndowWindow. Finally, in the room that you are cooling, be diligent to keep windows and doors shut whenever they are not being used. Small steps like these can save a tremendous amount on the electric bill.
We find ourselves in the same situation every year. Without air-conditioning, you'll sweat this summer. With it, you may still sweat over the bill you'll have to pay. This year, why not do something different? Small steps like retrofitting your current air-conditioner can save you money while keeping you from sweating. These affordable solutions make The Bahamas greener and put green in your pocket.

o Joshua Key is the operations manager for SuperGreen Solutions Bahamas, located on Wulf Road next to FYP. SuperGreen Solutions leads the market as one of the premier advisors, suppliers and installers of domestic and commercial energy efficient solutions, making it truly a one-stop energy-efficient solution shop.

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Govt opens new national park system on San Salvador

April 26, 2015

The San Salvador National Park System has been opened, with the Bahamas National Trust now responsible for managing the land in the system, including Crown land and private land holdings.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis opened the new park system last week, outlining the five different areas of the system, beginning with Graham's Harbour Iguana and Seabird National Park.
"This key biodiversity area spans 5,500 acres and supports the largest colonies of iguanas and seabirds in The Bahamas," Davis reported.
"Additionally, as it is protected by fringing reefs, Graham's Harbour contains the most stable and extensive seagrass meadows around San Salvador. Every Bahamian who enjoys conch should appreciate that this treat is associated with seagrass. This 'protected bush' yields an abundance of nature," he said.
The second park in the system is the West Coast Marine Park, comprising 6,000 acres in an area frequented by local dive operators and best known for its spectacular coral wall and vertical drop to more than 13,000 feet.
"These coral reefs support the endangered Elkhorn coral - the first coral to be listed as an endangered species. The critically-endangered hawksbill turtle, tropic birds and shearwaters love this area, which may also serve as a migratory route for humpback whales," Davis said.
Third is the Pigeon Creek and Snow Bay National Park, which takes in 4,865 acres.
Pigeon Creek is San Salvador's only tidal creek, and it supports the main population of sea urchins and provides a nursery area for the Nassau Grouper, spiny lobster and other reef fish. Most importantly, the fisheries of San Salvador are heavily dependent on this area for stock replenishment, the deputy prime minister reported.
Next is the Southern Great Lake National Park.
"This is also a key biodiversity area that extends over 4,068 acres," Davis said. "The Southern Great Lake is home to an extensive mangrove system in the center of San Salvador. The area is known to support four species of nesting seabirds and at least three species of reptiles, including the endangered San Salvador Rock Iguana, which is found nowhere else in the world."
Finally, the Green's Bay National Park on Goulding Cay will protect the 599 acres which host a major iguana population, additional reef and seagrass habitats and a rocky shoreline that supports shearwaters and tropic birds.

A long time coming
Davis recounted the history of the park's development.
The Bahamas National Trust recommended the protection of 52 sites in The Bahamas in 1983, with several areas in San Salvador among them. In 2005, the trust collaborated with San Salvador Living Jewels Foundation in the development of a park proposal, and in 2007 that proposal was presented to government.
"We are happy to acknowledge and to thank the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for its grant funding, which advanced the park designations and management plan development," Davis said.
"We are satisfied that this park system has the support of the local, national and international communities. Much effort has gone into securing this support. The evidence is documented in reports of focus group meetings, survey interviews and meetings with local government officials and senior policy makers. As the government, we are confident that San Salvador is ready for the responsibility that attends to what we commit to today. This confidence is supported by the nearly 340 signatures of Bahamians and more than 600 signatures from the international community."

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Caribbean banking association supports Browne on 'corresponding bank' remarks

April 26, 2015

The Caribbean Association of Banks (CAB) fully supports Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston A. Browne in his remarks to the meeting of CARICOM heads and President of the United States Barack Obama on Thursday, April 9 in Jamaica.
According to the CAB, Browne highlighted a very real and grave threat to the Caribbean banking industry on which the CAB has been advocating - the unfair and unsubstantiated labeling of the Caribbean region as a high-risk area for financial services by some U.S. organizations - which is resulting in the disturbing threat of loss of correspondent banking relationships to banks in the region.
"Correspondent banks use the risk rating of countries, in assessing the risk profile of banks, to determine whether to continue existing or establish new relationships," noted the CAB in a press release.
"The present trend is that some correspondent banks have discontinued some of the services provided to regional banks and are also not establishing new relationships particularly with small size financial institutions."
The CAB highlighted that correspondent banking relationships are critical in enabling key economic and financial transactions, such as remittances, foreign direct investments and international trade in goods and services, which constitute some of the key drivers for sustaining the region's growth and development. Consequently, the loss of these vital relationships can render the region unbankable and ultimately destabilize all sectors of its economies.
"The CAB considers this issue to be a threat to national security for the various islands in the region.
The CAB is pleased to note that President Barack Obama reiterated at his meeting with the Young Leaders of the Americas, that he has committed to examine the complaints and go through, in very concrete ways, where our concerns are and how our governments can work together."
The CAB noted that it will remain vigilant on this serious matter and will continue to collaborate with CARICOM and other stakeholders toward a resolution.
The Caribbean Association of Banks, Inc. is a community of banks and other financial institutions in the Caribbean/CARICOM region, which provides opportunities for discussion on issues impacting the regional banking/financial services community, as well as for the sharing of experiences and networking. CAB is an organization dedicated to the advocacy of national and institutional adherence to anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). It recommends and supports full compliance with the AML/CFT standards in order to protect all financial systems within the region from ongoing money laundering and terrorist financing risks.

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New Court of Appeal ruling 'gives confidence' on judicial interference

April 26, 2015

A new ruling from the Court of Appeal should give citizens confidence on a matter of fundamental importance when dealing with the critical issue of the certainty of commercial transactions and the spectre of undue judicial interference, according to a local lawyer.
The case in question is the appeal by David Moree against the ruling of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett that a joint bank account held by Moree and a deceased friend was part of the deceased friend's estate, and not Moree's property alone.
In brief, the appellant (Moree) and the deceased were former colleagues and old friends when the deceased wrote a will leaving bequests to Moree, the Bahamas Humane Society, the Salvation Army and the respondents in the appeal, Norman Whitlock and Dorothy Jack. The residuary clause of the will provided that any balances should be divided equally between the appellant and respondents.
One month later, the deceased converted a bank account to a joint account with the appellant. The account forms contained a joint tenancy clause. Subsequently thereafter, the deceased revoked the bequests to the Salvation Army and the Humane Society by codicil.
At the time of the deceased's passing, the account held nearly $200,000, which the Supreme Court found was money held in trust for the estate of the deceased. Moree appealed, alleging that he was beneficially entitled to the money.
Justice Jon Isaacs, writing for the Court of Appeal, explained that the higher court had set aside the Supreme Court judge's ruling and all orders made therein and pursuant thereto "in their entirety".
"The appellant is and was at all material times legally and beneficially entitled to the funds standing to his credit on his account, which was the subject of this appeal. The appellant's monies on the account do not form part of the estate of the deceased," the Court of Appeal ruled.

A matter of fundamental importance
Kahlil Parker, who appeared for Moree in the Court of Appeal, told Guardian Business that "a matter of fundamental importance to us when preparing and articulating the appellant's case on appeal was our concern that the judgment in the court below would set a dangerous precedent in commercial dealings of unnecessary judicial intervention, where parties have taken clear and definitive steps to establish their intentions, and to eliminate any ambiguity as to the relationship between themselves."
"In this case, both the bank, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank (Bahamas) Limited, and the joint-account holders, through the execution of the clearly worded account opening documents in this case, did all that could reasonably be required of them to establish the appellant's legal and beneficial interest in the funds held on the joint-account during the life of the parties and after the death of one or the other," he said.
"As the Honourable Mr. Justice Isaacs JA, who delivered the Court of Appeal's judgment, determined of His Lordship in the court below: By placing scant reliance on the pellucidly clear [account] opening documents he proceeded beyond what was necessary for his determination...
"While there is undoubtedly more to this case and the judgment of the Court of Appeal, what is of general importance is that both commercial banks and their customers ought to have confidence that their clear intentions, as may be reflected in their forms and contracts, will not be unreasonably interfered with in litigation after the fact," Parker said.
"If the court is too casual about re-opining everyday commercial transactions ex post, we risk introducing an uncertainty that in all probability will be accompanied by incalculable transaction costs for both financial institutions and their customers. Of course the respondents have now been left to consider their respective positions at which point we will take things from there," he added.

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Blue Diamond/COB partnership training program begins

April 26, 2015

Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts and Memories Grand Bahama Beach and Casino Resort have partnered with The College of The Bahamas to establish the Memories resort as a working campus and a preferred location for internships.
The move is part of the ongoing strategy of Blue Diamond - a resort management company - to deliver best-in-class vacation experiences.
The College of The Bahamas Culinary and Hospitality Management Institute (CHMI) has scheduled supervisory and guest services training for 38 supervisors to begin at the resort.
Memories General Manager Gabriel Varela stated, "Our short term, medium term and long term strategy is to invest in the natural talents of our Bahamian employees, in order to achieve our goal to become a recognized regional industry leader."
The resort entered into a three-year agreement with The College of The Bahamas in December 2014, thereby appointing CHMI the sole service provider for the 700 employees of the resort. Presently ranked as the leading all-inclusive resort in Grand Bahama by TripAdvisor, the Memories Grand Bahama Beach and Casino Resort officially opened in March 2014.
"The arrangement will facilitate Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts employees' access to the certified culinary, hospitality and business programs offered by the college, and determine College of The Bahamas student placement for practical professional internships at the Memories Grand Bahama Beach and Casino Resort for the upcoming fall semester," said College of The Bahamas President Dr. Rodney D. Smith.
In the medium term, Memories Grand Bahama employees, as well as those interning students, will gain international exposure at resorts at other locations within the Blue Diamond chain
(e.g., St. Lucia and Jamaica), and participate in Spanish language immersion programs in the Blue Diamond Resorts located in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico.
Over time the formalized partnership with The College of The Bahamas is intended to establish sustainable industry-driven educational programs that impact positively on the economy of The Bahamas and its role as a regional leader in the tourism industry.
Accordingly, Dr. Sophia A. Rolle, executive director of CHMI, said, "The College of The Bahamas shared the resort's commitment to a long-term partnership. Over the years, we have been able to attract the brightest minds in The Bahamas to facilitate industry-related courses on demand. Being able to service the needs at the Memories Grand Bahama Resort is expected to be no different". Initially, 148 employees will be trained in the areas of "supervisory", "Train-the-Trainer" and "Guests Services Gold". There will be 30 employees in the supervisory area, 10 in the Train-the-Trainer program and 100 in Guests Services Gold.
Outlining the student internship opportunities, Mary L. Culmer, director of human resources for Memories Grand Bahama concluded, "Six students will be accommodated at the Memories Resort (Freeport, Mexico or Dominican Republic). Students will live and work on property for the specified time period outlined in the internship manual, and while on property, the students will be monitored and supervised by the appropriate departmental supervisors who will ensure that competencies and skills are being met according to industry standards."
The supervisory training program will be conducted at the beachfront resort, from April 27, through May 2, 2015.

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BREEF hires new environmental educator with a grant from The Moore Bahamas Foundation

April 26, 2015

The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) has announced a grant from The Moore Bahamas Foundation (MBF) to hire Chantal Curtis as its new environmental educator. Her combined experiences in teaching and forensic science make her a valuable asset to the BREEF team as it seeks to expand citizen science leadership in its coastal field studies and underwater activities.
The latest staff expansion comes as BREEF continues to successfully lead local marine conservation efforts around The Bahamas. BREEF's education initiatives provide public and private school children with hands-on opportunities to learn about the Bahamian marine environment. The new environmental educator position and many ongoing education programs are made possible by grants from MBF, local affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation founded by Louis Bacon in 1992.
"BREEF is proud to add a uniquely qualified environmental educator to work with the thousands of children participating in our field trips to marine and coastal ecosystems, thanks to the continued commitment from our long-standing partner, The Moore Bahamas Foundation," said Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, executive director of BREEF.
"We continue to realize our mission by providing students of different ages and backgrounds the opportunity to learn more about why marine conservation is important and to see how we can work together for positive change."
Efforts to educate future generations about the vital Bahamian marine environment range from summer sea camps, with activities such as snorkeling, to outreach and education about sharks in The Bahamas, to virtual coral reef field trips. Additionally, BREEF's marine conservation workshops have trained over 700 teachers from islands across The Bahamas. These educators are now back in their classrooms sharing what they learned with their students and colleagues.
Throughout the year, BREEF offers classroom presentations and field trips for school groups to enhance instruction of marine conservation topics now included in national curricula. In 2014, BREEF programs allowed over 2,000 of students to experience the marine environment of The Bahamas. As demand for field trips has increased in recent years, support from The Moore Bahamas Foundation has allowed more students to enjoy this opportunity annually.
"The high demand for BREEF field trips highlights the fact that Bahamian students care about their environment and they value experiences that create an emotional connection to the water, plants and wildlife around them," said Ann Colley, executive director and vice president of The Moore Bahamas Foundation. "We are grateful for the opportunity to work with BREEF and support these one-of-a-kind learning experiences for the children of The Bahamas, and we know that Chantal Curtis will be a vital part of this good work."
The hands-on learning approach that BREEF emphasizes is also showcased through the Bahamas Environmental Steward (BES) Scholars youth mentorship program. In collaboration with The Cape Eleuthera Island School, BREEF provides BES Scholars with the unique opportunity to become involved in marine research, including shark and turtle tagging activities.
In recent years BREEF has been able to expand and enhance its marine science and field studies programmes, while also diversifying options for students at both public and private schools. In 2009, BREEF launched the Eco-Schools (Bahamas) Programme. Eco-Schools is the largest sustainable schools programme in the world, operating in over 55 countries.
The Moore Bahamas Foundation and BREEF's successful partnership began in 2000, and most recently, MBF commended BREEF's campaign that helped influence new legislation that ensures a fixed closed fishing season for the endangered Nassau grouper.
"When we see the joy and wonder on the faces of the students in our programmes, we know that we are doing meaningful work for the future of The Bahamas and our precious waters," McKinney-Lambert said. "We are excited to welcome Ms Curtis to BREEF and we look forward to expanding our education efforts and continuing to promote the much needed conservation of our Bahamian marine environment."
Chantal Curtis will be coordinating and implementing coastal field trips to Jaws Beach, Bonefish pond and other key places around the island as part of ongoing National Coastal Awareness Month activities. She will also collaborate with Dr Demian Chapman and Mr Mark Bond for shark education in May. Chantal first got involved with BREEF as a Teacher Training Workshop participant in 2014.
This summer, the BREEF team will be particularly busy with summer sea camps on New Providence, Eleuthera, and San Salvador, and with a Marine Conservation Teacher Training Workshop on San Salvador.

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Local mobile sector watching 'over-the-top' services like Skype, WhatsApp

April 26, 2015

With data-related services like Skype and WhatsApp rapidly cutting into global telecoms profits, Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) Director of Policy Stephen Bereaux said that The Bahamas must "watch and see" data service growth as local networks express growing concerns.
Bereaux told Guardian Business that while URCA does not have an official stance on over-the-top services to date, the authority is closely monitoring their growth to ensure that local networks, predominantly the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and the soon to be announced second cellular provider, retain enough revenue to ensure steady growth.
"At the moment it's sort of a 'watch and see' scenario. They've not gotten into The Bahamas to the extent where networks need to be seriously concerned about their revenues. But networks have started to have some concerns, and it certainly is something that you have to watch carefully," he said.
While neither local government nor URCA have adopted an official stance on the services, other jurisdictions in the region have taken steps to protect their telecoms sectors. Jamaica and Haiti's regulatory bodies, for instance, have largely turned a blind eye to local networks blocking such services threatening traditional text and voice revenues, while Bereaux noted that Trinidad is eyeing similar strategies.
"You want services available to the customers, but at the same time the networks have to be able to make future investments," Bereaux said.
In conjunction with reviewing these services, Bereaux said that URCA is looking at reviewing the methodologies used for costing broadband in the country to better regulate providing the service as URCA tries to shape The Bahamas into a regional center of excellence in information and communication technologies (ICTs).
"A key topic is how we cost broadband network, because one of the things that's happening is a shift from traditional voice and text services to over-the-top data-related services like WhatsApp or Skype.
"So one of the key issues is how do we treat with those over-the-top services from a regulatory or governmental perspective at all. Do we treat with them at all or do we just let them continue to grow?
"Or how do the networks address the changes in their revenue and the change in their business models that these over-the-top services present, because they lose a lot of the revenues that they would've earned in the past," he said.
Regarding general regulation of the telecoms sector, Bereaux said that consumer protection remains a high priority for the authority, due in large part to BTC's long-standing monopoly for cellular services.
Although the government is set to announce the country's second cellular services provider next month, Bereaux said that consumer protection concerns would likely persist, even after the end of BTC's monopoly.
"Consumer protection is obviously something that we've been working on at URCA and is a major issue, predominantly because we don't have liberalization yet. Consumer protection is a larger issue in a monopoly market but we think it will continue to be a big issue," Bereaux said.

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Cancer Society reveals new website

April 26, 2015

On the heels of announcing the largest fundraising initiative in its 39-year history, $3 million plans to build 16 new rooms and create the first hospice care facility in the nation, The Cancer Society of The Bahamas continues its rebranding efforts with the design of a new logo and debut of its revamped website. The recent moves place the organization in line with its mandate to expand its local outreach.
"With the expansion plans on the fore, we thought it necessary to freshen the appearance of the society and the simplest yet most effective solution was to change the logo and redesign the website," said Dr. Williamson Chea, Cancer Society vice-president. "The enhanced, user-friendly site will offer information in a more streamlined manner, bringing it in line with current web design trends."
The new logo depicts a green ribbon at the base, similar to that of a tree trunk surrounded by leaves symbolic of life and regrowth. Although its look may be different, the Cancer Society's goal of acting as a support hub for the local community is still at the forefront.
"Our goal is to root ourselves in the community and be the system of support," said Dr. Chea. "It is important for us to maintain that presence especially in a society where just about every Bahamian family has been touched by cancer."
The website, www.cancersocietybahamas.org, provides resources on cancer prevention and support groups, a gallery of images on past events and includes a portal where donations can be accepted.
The Cancer Society of The Bahamas was established in 1976 as a non-profit organization, to educate the public about the various types of cancer and related treatments, as well as cancer prevention.

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Castrol Quote of the day: April 25, 2015
Castrol Quote of the day: April 25, 2015

April 25, 2015

Castrol Quote of the day: April 25, 2015

"SPRING SPECIAL
CONTINUES...
At Bay St. Garage
Consumer's Choice & Whim
GET 7.5% OFF* CASTROL
EDGE, MAGNATEC & GTX
Minimum of 4 quarts or
1 gallon!"
*(Certain Restrictions Apply).

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10 jobs to go in Ocean Club renovations union seeks meeting with PM
10 jobs to go in Ocean Club renovations union seeks meeting with PM

April 25, 2015

TEN employees at the One & Only Ocean Club will lose their jobs to redundancy when the resort begins renovating its facilities this summer, the Paradise Island resort confirmed yesterday...

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Technology gaps hamper business growth

April 24, 2015

A positive contribution of value-added tax (VAT) has been its rollout over a web-based platform. By embracing technology, the government greatly eased the burden of implementing VAT...

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Keen i Media Ltd., Sales & Marketing Reps for BahamasLocal.com in Freeport, Grand Bahama!

April 24, 2015

Francis Taylor, Sales & Marketing Director for BahamasLocal.com, traveled to Freeport, Grand Bahama on Wednesday April 22nd to meet with Erik Russell and his Team from Keen i Media Ltd...

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Castrol Quote of the day: April 24, 2015
Castrol Quote of the day: April 24, 2015

April 24, 2015

Castrol Quote of the day: April 24, 2015

"SAVE 7.5%* on your
purchase of 1 gallon or
4 quarts of CASTROL
EDGE, MAGNATEC &
GTX at Bay St. Garage,
Consumer's Choice or
Whim!"
*(Certain Restrictions Apply).

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PM: Jobs at Baker's Bay, other projects show I'm not delusional

April 24, 2015

Pointing to the hundreds of jobs that are being created on the Family Islands, Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday when Bahamians see what is happening across the country it will prove that he is not "delusional"...

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