Business

Cercone not acting as govt spokesman, source says

August 21, 2015

A source close to the National Health Insurance (NHI) implementation process has sought to clear the air with respect to a slew of allegations made by the Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) and the Bahamas Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) about the role played by the government's technical advisor on the scheme and about how much - if any - real consultation has taken place as the scheme is designed and prepped for rollout.
The two associations, representatives of private health insurance companies and brokers respectively, have demanded that the government clarify whether Sanigest President James Cercone has been functioning as a government spokesman, and have also continued to assert that the government's claims that consultation is going on within the industry is "disingenuous at best".
The government has yet to respond publicly to the charges, but a source with knowledge of the process spoke with Guardian Business about the matter.
"Frankly, our role as contracted by the government is both to be the technical advisor and to support implementation. In fact our contract specifically speaks to implementation, and we've been contracted through to July 2016 precisely so that we support the implementation phase," the source said.
"So I really don't see where the conflict is, frankly, between being the technical advisor and supporting implementation. Obviously, we're not implementing, per se. We're only responsible for providing input and advice on how to get NHI implemented."

Govt spokesperson
With regards to the accusation levied by the BIA and the BIBA that Cercone has been acting as a spokesperson for the government, the source disagreed.
"I don't think that's the case at all. In no regard has [Cercone] ever said that he is speaking for the government. In reality, he has only spoken out a few times, and it has always been as a technical advisor, as a technical consultant to the implementation process.
"I don't think anything that he said could be misconstrued as the government's position."

Incendiary
The source - who spoke with the understanding that no identities would be revealed - charged that it was the BIA whose comments have been "extremely incendiary and absolutely not supported by any facts".
"In fact, their allegations about cost and things like that, that we've specifically asked them for their methodology and to share with us what the basis of their calculation is and they've provided nothing. All they do is come back with these very high-level statements that it's going to cost more than we're saying it's going to cost," the source said.

Consultation
The source reiterated that there had been five meetings - "sit down meetings, full presentation" the source stressed - with the BIBA and other single engagements before the association's latest round of salvoes began.
"And then they release a statement saying that there has been no stakeholder engagement."
The source pointed out that the NHI Act of 2007 proposed a single-payer system, which would have been - in the private health insurers' collective view - a nationalization of health insurance. It was because of stakeholder engagement, the source asserted, that the government was encouraged to promote a multi-payer system.
The source went on to cite a number of changes and inclusions made "in response to stakeholder consultations".
In fact, the source said, 80 percent or so of what the BIA wants has been incorporated into the design that has been proposed.
"To be honest, we're almost at a loss in the sense that we don't understand how they can say there's no stakeholder consultation when they're meeting continuously with people on the implementation team to discuss these issues."

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No word on Staniel Cay airport after four months

August 21, 2015

Four months after the government abruptly shut down the Staniel Cay airport during the height of its tourism season, local residents and businesspersons still find themselves without official word of when they may see this vital infrastructure repaired as the economy and local community continues to hurt.
Stephen Miller, local government council member for Staniel Cay, yesterday told Guardian Business that the island's pleas have remained unanswered as the delayed repairs continue to drive away tourism business and pose lingering health and safety concerns.
In April, the Department of Civil Aviation (CAD) announced the temporary closure of the runway over serious safety concerns. The extent of the airstrip's needed repairs, CAD argued,
prevented the relatively quick patching treatments used in the past and necessitated the Ministry of Work's involvement.
Four months on, the Ministry of Works has yet to commence work on the infrastructural upgrade or issue official word of a contract to complete the work after negotiations with the ministry's first choice, Odyssey Aviation, fell through and, according to Miller, effectively set the repair process "back to square one."
"If something's happening, the community's not being informed," Miller said.
In the meantime, residents have had to use ferries to and from Black Point, Exuma, to access air facilities. Yet with the winter season - and the renewed threats of cold fronts and severe weather - residents fear both their and tourists' ability to commute from Black Point to Staniel Cay and have called on the government to expedite the repair process lest the island find itself wholly inaccessible.
"We've had a lot of cancellations tourism-wise because a lot of visitors come on their own aircraft. On top of that we've had homeowners here complain about not being able to bring their aircraft into Black Point. There is any number of reasons to expedite it and try to get it fixed.
"If the workers aren't even coming over how can we expect visitors to do it?" asked Miller.
"We don't think it's fair and we're just pleading with the government to hear our cry and understand that it's not easy. It seems like no one's hearing our pleas and we're feeling it because it's costing everyone in our community. People are already hesitant to rebook," he said, asking the government to swiftly give a timeline for the repairs and notify residents of any awarded contracts.
A group of affected Staniel Cay residents yesterday released an open letter to several government ministries seeking relief, citing the considerably detrimental economic and safety impacts of the airport's prolonged closure.
"Staniel Cay airport is one of the busiest airports in the entire Bahamas. We exemplify the country's mission to support the tourism industry, and we have developed a thriving tourist economy. Alas, that is suffering while the airport is closed.
"We experience lost tourism revenue from cancellations and a loss of goodwill while attempting to soothe disgruntled visitors to our country. The closure of our popular and heavily-traveled airport is an extreme detriment to the image of the Bahamas the government wants to convey to visitors," read the statement.
Solomon Robinson, a local pilot, said that the continued closure remained "very hard" on the local economy. Aside from the inconvenience of traveling between Staniel Cay and Black Point, Robinson highlighted the financial strain on the island's residents caused by fuel costs.
"To make a simple trip to Nassau it takes a half a day to do what I could've done in an hour," he said.
The group similarly raised concerns over the lack of adequate medical access to the island in the event of an emergency, with one local businessperson referring to the situation as a "ticking clock" before someone is seriously injured as a result of not being able to airlift persons from Staniel Cay to Nassau.
"Elderly, infirm, frail and pregnant persons are not able to climb in and out of small boats, or manage a rough boat ride, in order to access a flight to Nassau or elsewhere for medical treatments and care. This is causing significant hardship for our most vulnerable citizens.
"For ourselves, our children, and our visitors, these safety concerns rival or surpass the safety issues the government claimed behind the airport closure. We urge you to address both safety issues immediately by repairing and reopening our airstrip. Must we wait for disaster to strike before any action occurs?"

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OECD applauds Bahamas on transparency, dubs blacklisting 'unfair'

August 21, 2015

A senior Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) spokesperson yesterday stated that the organization is "extremely happy" with The Bahamas' strides in advancing transparency within the financial services sector, making the European Union's (EU) blacklisting of The Bahamas all the more "unfair".
Pascal Saint-Amans, director of the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, commended the jurisdiction's progress in implementing the OECD's automatic exchange of information (AEOI) standard for financial reporting, noting that there was little left for the country to do ahead of 2018.
With The Bahamas largely compliant with the OECD's existing standard of exchange of information on request, Saint-Amans stated that he is "extremely confident" in the country's ability to fulfill its reporting obligations by the slated 2018 deadline.
"There is nothing else you can do for the time being, even though there are some challenges for the implementation for the automatic exchange of information," he said.
In June, the EU Commission included The Bahamas in a list of "third country non-cooperative tax jurisdictions" despite The Bahamas' compliance with most recent international standards.
Saint-Amans was one of two high-ranking OECD officials who stood up in support of The Bahamas and a number of other states
following their "unfair" inclusion on the EU tax blacklist, which he described as "inconsistent."
"You've done what you had to and therefore it's very unfair that you end up on the blacklist, which actually is not even a list - it's just a compilation of existing lists that are inconsistent," Saint-Amans said.
However, Saint-Amans did not go into detail regarding the challenges facing The Bahamas as it prepares for AEOI compliance.
Local industry stakeholders condemned the placement of The Bahamas on that list, with Minister of Financial Services Hope Strachan questioning how the country ended up on the list. However, Strachan yesterday said that Saint-Amans' visit gave a "good signal" for the strength of the industry moving forward.
"We believe that Mr. Saint-Amans has been able to confirm to the industry that the blacklisting was not an OECD initiative and that the industry in The Bahamas is still regarded as a compliant jurisdiction, that the industry is still strong, and that we're able to move forward with the regulatory programs that the OECD has established over the course of the year.
"We believe that this is a good signal for the industry moving forward. It gives us a sense of comfort, so to speak," said Strachan.
The meeting comes a week after the Department of Statistics revealed a 36 percent jump in unemployment amid the country's "finance, insurance, real estate and other business service" sector. Since the release of the figures, Strachan has vowed to bolster the financial services sector by targeting new markets and diversifying the country's financial products.
Saint-Amans was in The Bahamas to brief industry stakeholders on the blacklisting as well as the OECD's base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) project, which aims to plug holes in tax rules whereby international corporations shift profits to lower tax jurisdictions to reduce overall corporate tax fees.
According to the OECD is an initiative is an ""attempt by the world's major economies to try to rewrite the rules on corporate taxation to address the widespread perception that the [corporations] don't pay their fair share of taxes."

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Albert Miller: A Bahamian giant passes

August 20, 2015

The contributions of the late Sir Albert Miller crossed many spheres of private and public life. For more than 33 years he served as a director, president, chairman and chairman emeritus of FOCOL Holdings Limited (FOCOL). Under his leadership many milestones were achieved; most notably, his stewardship in preparing the company for public listing on the Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX) - a listing that attracted 1600 Bahamian investors. Additionally, he led the acquisition of Shell International's assets in The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands, firmly establishing FOCOL as the largest petroleum company in those jurisdictions.
President and CEO of FOCOL Holdings Anthony Robinson recalls the advice that Sir Albert gave FOCOL's management team:
"When a group of well-intentioned people get together, they can achieve great things."
Inspired by this philosophy, Sir Albert partnered with a group of farsighted, much younger, Bahamian entrepreneurs. These partners credit him with bringing his considerable business clout and experience to enhance the relationship, which helped them to convert a dream many thought impossible into FOCOL, a company owned and managed by Bahamians, employing a skilled and diverse team of 420 persons.
Franklyn Wilson, CMG, chairman of FOCOL commented: "Sir Albert not only preached cooperation among Bahamians of different backgrounds and talents, he lived it. Because of this, he made possible for Bahamians what many termed impossible. No one thought that equitable participation in the oil industry at the ownership level was possible for Bahamians."
The FOCOL chairman continued, "Fundamentally, Sir Albert had a rare and exceptional degree of certain qualities, which I think are important to success. For example, Sir Albert Miller was a disciplined person and, by discipline, he was prepared to defer gratification. A lot of people who are not disciplined, they want to have it now. Sir Albert was not like that. He had that discipline and no doubt a lot of that came from his military training.
"The second thing that made Sir Albert special was that he listened. There was literally a generation between he and I, and he listened. Thirdly, he was rational in his decision-making. It was not a question of reacting in anger or emotion. He and I also served together on the finance committee of the Anglican diocese under Bishop Michael Eldon. This experience allowed me to witness first hand his altruism and generosity. When you add all these things together I think you get a glimpse of the man and why he has become so iconic."
Anthony Robinson expressed similar sentiments about Sir Albert's generosity, respect for others and willingness to contribute to the progress of his younger colleagues.
"When I reflect on Sir Albert Miller, I value his guidance which has played a pivotal role in my development, having served under his leadership for 23 years as general manager and later president. We spent a tremendous amount of time together. He was instrumental in directing me and my development over the years. Sir Albert was a very special person," Robinson said.
Clinton Rolle, deputy general manager, Sun Oil Limited, summed up FOCOL's great regard for its patriarch, who contributed so much to the company. "His leadership and business acumen well into his eighties were most impressive. We should all be so lucky to enjoy a life as full and as purposeful as he did. May he rest in peace."

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Rental Homes in The West continue to move
Rental Homes in The West continue to move

August 20, 2015

New corporate and International Organization Relocations to New Providences supports continual growth in the rental market. Western New Providence continues to hold the interest of new International and domestic residence alike...

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Baha Mar hearing: Resort's legal team challenge choice of liquidators
Baha Mar hearing: Resort's legal team challenge choice of liquidators

August 20, 2015

THE morning session of the second day of arguments for the government's winding up petition against Baha Mar came to a close when the mega resort's legal team challenged the selection of the latest prospective provisional liquidators, Ernst and Young...

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BREAKING NEWS: Rosewood files motion to terminate Baha Mar licence
BREAKING NEWS: Rosewood files motion to terminate Baha Mar licence

August 20, 2015

ROSEWOOD Hotel and Resorts International, a hotel brand at the stalled Baha Mar development, on Wednesday filed a motion in a Delaware bankruptcy court to terminate its license with the $3.5bn West Bay Street project...

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Baha Mar opening 'unlikely to be soon'
Baha Mar opening 'unlikely to be soon'

August 20, 2015

BAHA Mar's prospects of opening in the "foreseeable future" are unlikely on its current path, British Queen's Counsel Peter Knox told a Supreme Court judge yesterday.

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Insurance association: Govt consultation claims 'disingenuous'

August 20, 2015

The Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) has - for the second time in only a handful of days - lashed out at the government's handling of the preparation for implementing a universal health coverage system. It charges the government's claims of an ongoing consultative process over the National Health Insurance proposals made by consultants Sanigest Internacional - and the government itself - are "disingenuous at best".
On the same day as the Bahamas Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) challenged the government on the role being played by James Cercone, president of Sanigest Internacional, the BIA blasted away at the government's so-called consultative process.
The BIA has repeatedly stated in the public arena, and - it asserts - in various communications to the government that while the Ministry of Health seeks to publically promote a commitment to inclusivity, in practice it avoids involving BIA members as stakeholders in any substantive way.
"This is despite multiple attempts to contribute our knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the country in a sincere effort to improve the methodology and approaches recommended by Sanigest.
"Consultation requires a meeting of minds through deliberation. It involves genuine dialogue, meaning a discussion that considers advice and guidance from all relevant stakeholders. Consultation requires a forum that provides for the exchange of information to achieve better understanding in order to produce the best outcomes and arrive at the best decisions," the BIA said in a statement issued yesterday.
"Our experience to date suggests that the government defines consultation as invitations to stakeholders to attend presentations made by foreign consultants on what they are going to do, without any direct discourse between the parties involved.
"There has been no forum providing an opportunity for the local private sector to either fully understand the government's proposals, or to present alternative scenarios," the BIA asserted.
In a shot at Sanigest, the BIA queried: "Can it be that an external consulting firm based in another jurisdiction is the only entity that knows what is in the best interest of our country and our people?"
The association alleged that there has been no change in the process since Prime Minister Perry Christie announced that there would be an "advisory body" established to include private sector representation.
"Whilst the BIA continues to offer support for the achievement of universal healthcare in The Bahamas, we are in the position of always having to react to whatever limited information is being floated by the consultants at any given time. We have yet to be engaged in any meaningful discussion, consultation or dialogue with the government on this matter," the BIA statement said.
While acknowledging that Sanigest's draft proposals are available, the BIA complained that it had not received any detailed plans regarding decisions taken by the government or mechanisms for inclusion of the private health insurance sector.
"Sanigest's proposals are devoid of many relevant details regarding implementation of NHI within the practicalities of our industry, the local infrastructure and our national circumstances - either for the immediate or long-term development of NHI.
"As Bahamian citizens and proven professionals, we expect more meaningful engagement in our own country. Are we wrong to expect such cooperation? Or should we simply resign ourselves to governmental coercion?
"Given our experience to date, we suggest that consultation in our land is more illusive than inclusive. But we remain ever hopeful," the BIA said.

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BIA: 36 financial services job losses a 'wake up call'

August 20, 2015

Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) Chairman Emmanuel Komolafe yesterday called on the government to renew its focus on protecting both the country's insurance industry and wider domestic financial services industry following a painful 36 percent increase in sectoral
unemployment, calling the job loses a "wake up call" to industry stakeholders.
Speaking with Guardian Business, Komolafe said that while The Bahamas' insurance sector's employment figures remained comparatively stable within the "finance, insurance, real estate and other business service" sector, the implications of the job cuts on the wider sector boded ill for the country's gross domestic product (GDP) forecasts and economic recovery.
"We hope that the recent significant fall in employment figures for the financial services industry, albeit disappointing, will encourage the government to place more focus on the concerns of the insurance sector. This is bearing in mind that this is a sector that has been arguably the most stable within the financial services industry for decades and a consistent contributor to the nation's GDP," Komolafe stated.
On Friday, the Department of Statistics released its Labour Force Survey for the period ending May 2015, which revealed that "finance, insurance, real estate and other business service" sector unemployment swelled 36 percent - by far the greatest job losses for any sector. National unemployment, however, dropped 3.7 percent to 12 percent in large part due to temporary positions created by Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival and Baha Mar.
Despite the overall reduction, many private sector and opposition figures have expressed concern with the overall quality of the positions created as opposed to those lost in the financial services sector. Although the insurance sector remains relatively stable, the BIA has recently expressed fear of the "headwinds" facing the industry due to several of the Christie Administration's policy decisions, such as the implementation of value-added tax (VAT) and the government's proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.
"This is of significance when we consider the fact that wages within the industry are typically higher than the average wage in other sectors. Workers within this industry constitute a major part of The Bahamas' middle class - a group that is vital to the economic fortunes of any nation," Komolafe said.
In an earlier interview with Guardian Business, Minister of Financial Services Hope Strachan outlined the initial steps of the Ministry of Financial Services' recovery plan. That plan focused heavily on exploring new markets and promoting new products for the industry, including the Smart Fund and the ICON.
Komolafe noted that the sectorial shrinking was hardly unique to The Bahamas.
"It is apparent that the business decisions of international and multi-jurisdictional financial institutions are driving this trend due to strategic changes, consolidations, de-risking, cost cutting measures, tax information exchange initiatives and a more onerous regulatory environment," he said.
Komolafe commended Strachan for her stated intention to work with industry stakeholders, stating: "It was good to hear that the ministry will continue to work with the insurance industry to revive captive insurance."
However, he stressed that the domestic insurance sector was equally as important, if not more important, and deserved receive the same level of support.

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BAIC signs new labor agreement with BPSU

August 20, 2015

The Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) on Wednesday, August 19, signed a new labor agreement with the Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU), which represents staff at the corporation. BAIC is pleased to have negotiated in good faith with the BPSU, and is happy to have an industrial agreement that staff at the corporation are pleased with.
Some of the highlights of their new progressive five-year agreement include stronger employee benefits, greater opportunities for career development and advancement, greater opportunities for training and skills building - all paving the way for the further enhancement of working conditions at the BAIC.

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New charity race set for Exuma economic boost projected

August 20, 2015

The inaugural Run For Pompey - a new charity running event in George Town, Exuma - could help breath new life into Exuma's economy during the traditionally slow October season.
Kevin Taylor, co-founder of the event and president of Dreamkatcher Media, yesterday told Guardian Business that the charity event's target market of participants boded well for stimulating the island's economy and encouraging future investment in the island.
"Runners for the most part tend to be high-end individuals, and they are used to roughing it, so they are down with meeting the locals and I think that's the way that tourism is going now. We have beautiful sun, sand, and sea - and perhaps none is better than Exuma - but I think people really want to connect with the locals and learn about our culture, our traditions, and food, and I think that those are the things that bring people back," Taylor said.
Set for National Heroes Day on October 12, the event will include a 5k, half-marathon, full marathon, and a 50k ultra marathon - a first for The Bahamas. However, cookouts and educational events on the island will span the weekend from October 9-12.
"It's slow in October so I think that the people of Exuma will love that. Who knows, if people visit the island they're more likely than not to fall in love with the island and perhaps even think of having it as their next vacation destination or perhaps even a second home opportunity," he said.
Sponsors for the event include chief sponsor BAF Financial, the Ministry of Tourism, Bahamas Telecommunications Company and Bahamian Brewery & Beverage Company. Olympian Pauline Davis-Thompson is the event's patron.
The proceeds of the event will go towards the Exuma branch of the Cancer Society of The Bahamas and an annual scholarship fund for one Exuma student.
While the event's organizers hope to draw in roughly 100 runners for the first year of the event, Taylor said the organizers had reached out to Bahamian running clubs, along with international runners' organizations including the Miami Marathon and various Canadian running clubs.
"Once we get it going with Bahamians I think that's when international runners will want to get involved... We have some international registrations so we're looking to get at least 100 runners out there and hopefully it will grow as we continue to evolve," he said.
Between now and September 1, the event's organizers will also be encouraging participants to engage in the event's social media campaign, which is offering free race registration for select applicants.
In addition, Grand Isle Villas, one of the event's sponsors, will offer a 40 percent discount to registrants.

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Focus more on the journey than the destination

August 20, 2015

NAME: Leah Major
POSITION: Actuary, Colina Insurance Limited
EDUCATION & TRAINING:
o Fellow of the Society of Actuaries
o Bachelor of Business Administration, summa cum laude, actuarial science, Fox School of Business, Temple University
CAREER: Actuary, life and health Insurance
What attracted you to the sector?
At St. Augustine's College, I excelled at mathematics and the sciences, but found mathematics more enjoyable. On the advice of my teacher, I decided to research actuarial science. While the discipline seemed a "black box" at the time, it was apparent that it merged my interest in business and my affinity for mathematics and, therefore, appeared to be an ideal fit.
Having graduated from university with a degree in actuarial science, I sought employment in the industries that most readily engage the services of actuaries - one of them being the insurance sector. The insurance industry is built on quantifying and managing risk, which is the core of actuarial science. I was therefore excited to be starting my career in an industry that had an appreciation for the profession and would be positioned to provide development for me in that regard. It has since proven to be the best decision I could possibly have made.

How long have you been involved in financial services? What keeps you motivated?
I have eight years of experience in the life and health insurance industry, carrying out various pricing, valuation and solvency responsibilities. I began my career in life insurance and currently I manage the Health Unit of Colina's actuarial department which supports the company's group and individual medical business. Among other things, this involves:
o Developing premium rates for Colina's group and individual medical products which are both competitive and profitable; and
o Ensuring that Colina makes sufficient provision for claims.
The insurance industry is a very competitive space, and there are constant changes in regulation, technology and international best practices. This fosters an environment of continued learning and growth which keeps me motivated.

Why do you think you have been successful?
My philosophy is to focus more on the journey rather than the destination. That being said, there is an unmistakable destination that an actuary must reach in order to be "successful", and it is to become a fellow of one of the international professional actuarial bodies. In my view this is the single most important credential that an actuary receives, and is earned over many years of post-university independent study and a rigorous examination process. There is no short-cut; I persevered through dedication, hard work and self-motivation to get through the many hours required to prepare for each examination and ultimately achieve the designation.
Credentialing aside, I think I have been successful by committing to give my best and remaining focused on finding ways to help my team and the company achieve its goals. Perhaps what aids this most is that I have been fortunate enough to have found a career that I absolutely love and remain passionate about.

Did mentoring play a part in your success?
Mentoring has played a vital part in my development as a professional and as a person. I have learnt a great deal from other actuaries and professionals from other disciplines with whom I have worked. People often automatically think that mentors come in the form of those you work with. It is important, however, not to underestimate the influence of family and friends. Through the sharing of experiences and receiving counsel, a symbiosis develops that makes those relationships even more enriching. As these persons have invested in me, I hope to do the same for others.

What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform in the sector?
Being a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries is by far my most important qualification.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career and or industry? How did you overcome it?
There were instances in my career where I felt stuck in a rut and was searching for remedies. Through those experiences, I learnt that I was not only a recipient of work assignments, but I shared in the responsibility of crafting how I could best contribute to an organization and had a duty to take more initiative and ownership of my path. I also learnt the value of patience and taking a long-term view of my career and life in general. Having done so, both have become more enjoyable and fulfilling.

What advice would you give young people just starting out in the industry?
The insurance industry is very diverse and houses many different types of professionals. I would, therefore, urge individuals first to consider each of those careers and identify an area that seems best suited to their skills and interests. Secondly, note that certifications are highly valued in today's world; therefore being committed to attaining qualifications that will add value to your career is vital. Lastly, soak up knowledge and wisdom wherever and from whomever you can; travel a path that is your own and be sure to enjoy it.

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Swing: Correct negative rhetoric on migration

August 20, 2015

Lamenting "the many intractable humanitarian crises found across the globe," William Lacy Swing, director general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said as a collective, the world often falls short of finding lasting solutions "despite our common commitment to be more accountable to people affected by crises".
Yesterday, on World Humanitarian Day, Swing applauded the theme of the day - "inspiring humanity" - and said IOM fully echoes the need for greater engagement from all actors: political leaders, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, and communities themselves in ensuring "a humane response to those who seek our help".
Swing noted that in 2016, the world will redouble its efforts to global advocacy on humanitarian issues as part of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul, Turkey. He cited the seven key themes IOM has chosen which link its humanitarian work and the summit's thematic areas: humanitarian action and the role of the diaspora, assisting mobile populations, migrants in crisis, humanitarian border management, counter-trafficking, protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA), urbanization and migrants in cities.
"In the face of the rise of unprecedented and concurrent humanitarian crises with their heavy toll, IOM sees a key role for humanitarian workers to better engage communities... with the ultimate aim of saving and protecting lives in a humane and principled manner," Swing said.
"Being an operational and field-based organization, IOM also recognizes the fact that the crucial humanitarian work is done at the field level and largely depends on a collaborative effort between states, partners, and the local communities."
He called for the correcting of what he termed "the current negative rhetoric and narrative concerning migration and mobility issues as a result of grave humanitarian crises", and said IOM believes that joint advocacy and programming can contribute to this goal.
The IOM has developed Principles for Humanitarian Action (PHA), Protection Mainstreaming, and Durable Solutions policies, which Swing called "testament to the organization's commitment to ensuring that humanitarian principles are integrated into IOM programming and interventions."
He also hailed the recent convening of the first ever IOM NGO Humanitarian Consultations this past June with the support of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA).

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Symonette: Mitchell must stop 'throwing blame' and 'deal' with passport issue

August 20, 2015

Former Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette has criticized Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell for the ministry's introduction of a $200 emergency passport-processing fee, stating that Mitchell's use of the fee as a corruption deterrent constituted a "sad day" for the Passport Office.
Speaking with Guardian Business, Symonette raised concerns over the reasoning behind the emergency fee, which was introduced last month in part to fight corruption, along with the general increase in the cost of attaining a passport in The Bahamas.
"I think that's a sad day to whitewash everyone at the Passport Office to say they're corrupt because we have to put in this fee. Is that what the minister meant?" Symonette said.
Following criticism of the $200 processing fee, Mitchell said that the fee was introduced in part to combat bribery arising from applicants attempting to bribe passport officers to expedite the process, stating: "I want to stress that one of the reasons the fee has been implemented for emergencies is to eliminate any suggestion or attempt to offer money to people on the side to get the process advanced."
While Symonette commended Mitchell for overseeing the introduction of the equipment that serves as the backbone of the ministry's passport process during the first Christie administration, he questioned the swelling expenses associated with obtaining a passport in the country.
"The FNM decided to keep the cost of passports at $50 against the recommendation of the public service, because we wanted Bahamians to be able to afford a passport, not burden them with a $100 fee," he said.
Symonette also lamented the cessation of the Passport Office's previous practice of servicing family island communities through onsite visits.
"That doesn't exist anymore. Why? They tell me because there's no money in the budget, well, tell the minister not to fly on one of his trips. Use that money because it's the Bahamian public. Then you go and charge $200 for a fast fee."
Shadow Minister of Immigration Hubert Chipman fiercely criticized the emergency charge, stating that Bahamians were in essence being taxed for poor management.
As of last month, there was a 12-week wait for a passport once an application was filed. The excessive backlog of 6,500 passport applications within the ministry's system lead the ministry to bring in additional staff and equipment.
Passport Office officials previously stated that the office was receiving 200-300 applications per day and was able to process 1,000 per week.
Although the backlog was a familiar predicament during the summer months, Symonette questioned the ministry's current strategies.
"One of the reasons we didn't have a long list when I was there was that we hired 10 people from The College of The Bahamas to do data entry and we worked two shifts. Mr. Mitchell, just do that, very simple. Don't blame everyone, go and check yourself why these passports aren't being issued. Instead of throwing the blame, just go and deal with it," said Symonette.

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Hilton sweetens pot for frequent guests with digital key

August 20, 2015

Hilton Worldwide has introduced its new Digital Key, but it is not yet clear whether the Hilton at Resorts World Bimini (RWB) will be among the properties to offer the service.
The Digital Key is a new feature of the Hilton HHonors app which provides frequent guests the option to bypass the hotel's check-in desk and access their rooms, along with all other areas of the hotel that require a key, directly via their smartphones.
The Hilton at Resorts World Bimini has recently completed the first phase of construction, and is presently offering limited services and amenities until the second phase of construction is complete.
According to Hilton, since the launch of digital check-in with room selection last July, the HHonors app has been downloaded over 2 million times, and members have used it to digitally check in over 5 million times to date.
Digital Key beta testing began earlier this summer at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town in Virginia, and the app will gradually expand to availability at more locations, including some of the chain's Caribbean locations, which include Barbados, Puerto Rico, Curacao, The Bahamas, Cartagena, The Dominican Republic, Trinidad, and Aruba.
As for whether the Hilton property at RWB would be among those locations, a RWB spokesperson said the Digital Key "is still a beta product and we have not been advised as yet if we are on the list for hotels to roll it out."
Geraldine Calpin, senior vice president and global head of digital, Hilton Worldwide, said, "HHonors members can use digital check-in and room selection at more than 4,100 properties globally - and those who have used it have shared exceptional feedback.
"With Digital Key, we are making the guest experience even more seamless through our improved mobile app."

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Solomon's Super Center to host Trade Show Focused on After School Care
Solomon's Super Center to host Trade Show Focused on After School Care

August 19, 2015

Summer is almost over and as thousands of parents prepare to send their kids back to school, many are faced with planning for care beyond the classroom. After the final school bell rings, what options are available to those seeking to have their children in fun, engaging and safe activities...

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Wendy’s Coca Cola Announce 10K Trip Winner

August 19, 2015

Algericko Hanna, has emerged as the Grand Prize Winner in the Wendy's, Coca Cola & Going Places Travel, "Livin' Large" 10K Trip Promotion! The exciting Summer Promotion offered Wendy’s customers the chance to win one of three exclusive trips by upgrading their combos to a Large and entering the contest for a 7-day trip for 4 to Atlanta, a 6-day trip for 4 to Orlando, or a 6-day trip for 2 to Paris, France. Each trip included round trip airfare, hotel stay, and a deluxe entertainment package infused with fun, culture, and adventure.

Algericko, who celebrates his birthday on Aug. 24th plans to be in Atlanta on his big day. The lucky construction worker says that part of the built in $3,500 spending cash provided courtesy of Cash N’ Go will be used to get his kids ready for back to school and to pay some bills, but he says the remainder will be spent in Atlanta where he intends to make this birthday "the best one yet." As a first time visitor, he plans to take in everything the bustling city has to offer, and to reconnect with a high school buddy who happens to live there.

Algericko says he feels blessed to have come out on top from among the other six finalists. He explained...

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BTC helps Strike-up the Urban Renewal Band
BTC helps Strike-up the Urban Renewal Band

August 19, 2015

Today’s 600-strong Urban Renewal Marching Band is thirteen-years old, the age of many of its members who thrill us with their stylized performance and diverse musical inventory. Originally an ‘add-on’ to Prime Minister Perry Christie’s Urban Renewal initiative...

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PM hoped Sarkis would 'not allow resort to go'
PM hoped Sarkis would 'not allow resort to go'

August 19, 2015

IF THE Supreme Court decides to appoint a provisional liquidator today to take over the Baha Mar case, the government will be faced with a "different kind of situation", Prime Minister Perry Christie said as he recalled his administration's prior hopes that Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian "would not just allow the resort to go"...

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