Business

Cat Island partnership a model PPP, minister says

October 23, 2014

The development of a new airport on Cat Island is in its final stages and may break ground in a matter of months. According to Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle, the way the project has been developed and will be financed is a model the government will see used again.
Rolle pointed to the partnership between the government and Cat Island Partners Ltd., the developers of the $220 million Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Village, as a model public/private partnership (PPP).
"They will build the airport for us, and the government will take responsibility for the repayment of the commitment. We gave them a budget, we agreed on the design. The government will be lock-step with them in the development of it, but they will (build it) because the government does not have the capacity to get financing for that airport, which is essential to their development," he said.
The Department of Physical Planning approved the developer's plans for the New Bight International Airport last year. Phase one of the airport redevelopment, a $9 million venture, is supposed to involve the construction of a new terminal building and the resurfacing of the existing runway. The second phase is expected to bring the total bill to $16 million, chiefly through the construction of a new runway that will be 150 feet wide and 7,000 feet long.
Rolle said the government was "caught between a rock and a hard place". Its desire is to see the PGA Village come out of the ground, but the lynchpin of the development is access.
"If you don't have an airport, you're not going to get the bodies to keep the place open," he said. "So we said to the developer, you build it. We will allow you to repay the loan with us through, maybe landing fees."
The minister said that this partnership could be used as a model for the development of some of the other airports around the country in dire need of either refurbishment or replacement.
"For us, the mantra has to be PPP (public/private partnerships), because we cannot wait for development to take place; development has to move quickly," he said. "The people need it: we have high unemployment, and not many entrepreneurial opportunities. So we have to look at ways to continue to fund infrastructural development that would support economic development in the overall economy."

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Bahamas courts world's pharmaceutical firms

October 23, 2014

The Bahamas was "well-received" at the 2014 World Investment Forum (WIF), and is "well-positioned" as a jurisdiction to attract foreign direct investment, particularly in pharmaceuticals, according to Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle.
Rolle spoke with Guardian Business in the margins of the 2014 Nassau Conference, an annual gathering of financial services professionals sponsored by the Association of International Banks and Trust Companies in The Bahamas (AIBT) and the Ministry of Financial Services. The theme for this year's conference was "Engaging in a Transparent World".
Rolle and Minister for Grand Bahama Michael Darville attended the WIF in Geneva, Switzerland, last week.
"There were a number of people who wanted to speak with us about investment opportunities in The Bahamas. I participated on a panel highlighting investment opportunities in the Caribbean, and in particular in The Bahamas," he said.
"I spent a short time talking about the staple - the tourism sector - but I also spoke about the manufacturing opportunities because of our strategic location and the fact that we have infrastructure that is superior to most."
Rolle also reported that he and Darville had participated in "an audience" with leaders in the global pharmaceuticals industry, specifically those in the developing world.
"What we wanted to highlight was that The Bahamas is already playing a major role in the developing and manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, particularly drugs related to AIDS treatment," he said. "We spoke about the opportunities (that exist) because Freeport is a tax-free zone, and we have shipping and logistics that is comparable to none in the Caribbean."
PharmaChem Technologies (Grand Bahama) Ltd. is one of the key suppliers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and registered intermediates in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Founder and President Pietro Stefanutti bought the property where the company is located in 1996 and has invested around $50 million in creating a state-of-the-art plant on the 62-acre site. PharmaChem produces tenofovir disoproxil fumarate -- the active ingredient in HIV/AIDS drugs Atripla, Truvada and Viread.
Rolle said many more discussions would be needed to truly drum up interest from more pharmaceutical companies in what The Bahamas has to offer.
The minister said he hadn't really expected to bring back a deal.
"It starts with the discussion and the introduction, and making the contact," he said. "And we made contact. After that happens, we have to carry on the discussion and make sure people understand (what we have to offer).
"People don't immediately change their patterns for unknowns, so we have to become known in their minds."
He said they were able to promote The Bahamas and the strategic advantages it has to offer the pharmaceuticals industry.
"I suspect that many of those people are going to look at what The Bahamas has to offer. We're going to work hard to ensure that The Bahamas remains competitive (even with the imposition of value-added tax) and remains a choice destination for investments."

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Lucianos, Rotary join forces on World Polio Day

October 23, 2014

Local gourmet Italian eatery Luciano's of Chicago has joined the efforts of the Rotary Club of East Nassau, along with Rotary clubs world-wide, in its World's Greatest Meal to Help End Polio campaign. In support of polio eradication Luciano's of Chicago and a number of other local restaurants are participating in the campaign on World Polio Day, on Friday, October 24, 2014, to help raise funds for the worldwide initiative.
On World Polio Day, customers are welcomed to dine at Luciano's of Chicago to enjoy their lunch or dinner favorites, where a portion of their check will be donated to the Polio Plus Fund at The Rotary Foundation, and matched two for one by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to directly benefit those impacted by the polio disease.
Polio eradication has been Rotary's top priority since 1988, and has received the support of Luciano's of Chicago to assist in getting the organization even closer to eradicating the disease.
"As Rotarians are closer to eradicating polio and continue to provide invaluable campaigns such as the World's Greatest Meal, we're excited to partner and spread the word on this initiative that gives the restaurant and our patrons the opportunity to assist in raising funds in honor of World Polio Day," said Silfredo Naveda, general manager of Luciano's of Chicago.
Reservations for Luciano's on World Polio Day can be made by calling (242) 323-7770. Representatives from the Rotary Club of East Nassau will be present during the dinner period to answer any questions about the initiative and to collect additional donations.
To learn more about Luciano's of Chicago, please visit the restaurant's website at http://www.lucianosnassau.com or visit them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LucianosNassau.

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Baham Mar Eco-Reef Renewed Marine Life
Baham Mar Eco-Reef Renewed Marine Life

October 23, 2014

Baha Mar Partners With Non-Profit Organizations To Improve Marine Environment. olunteers assist in assembling hundreds of coral antlers before they are installed on the sea floor near Baha Mar....

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Take "Selfies" & WIN!!

October 23, 2014

You are invited to join the Bahamas Waste team in our efforts to TRASH cancer. We believe early detection is the key to beating this horrible disease...

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Bahamas Government to be flexible about pricing display during onset of VAT

October 23, 2014

The Ministry of Finance announced there will be some leniency with pricing display during the early days of the VAT...

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200 mil. BEC power plant 'on the table'

October 22, 2014

The Christie administration remains cagey about the restructuring of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), but Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle has admitted the possibility the government could borrow approximately $200 million to build a new power plant next year, even though he said it was a "last option".
BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller pegged the cost of the new 128-megawatt plant he recommends at $200 million, but could not say where the government would get the money to build it. Miller also made it clear he had no information on whether the government intends to borrow the money or even build a new plant at all.
Guardian Business asked Rolle whether the government is planning to borrow the money to pay for a new plant and, if so, would it do so in the next fiscal year.
"We have looked at every possible scenario. What we are trying to do is a very complex issue," he said. "We are trying to solve decades of underinvestment [in BEC], decades of poor investment decisions and decades of poor management of our energy supply sector. You're not going to easily unravel what has been done over decades, and that's why the process is taking a little bit longer than anticipated.
"We want to make sure that whatever decision is made meets the objective of reducing the cost of energy. You don't want to make a very quick decision, invest in a new plant and overinvest, and you still don't get the results that you are looking for. It's a complex issue."
Pressed to say whether borrowing the money for a new plant was on the agenda, Rolle said: "We can't say that as yet. That is the last option on the table for us."
He said the government's inability to finance this kind of development is what is behind the push toward public-private partnerships (PPPs).
"We have an infinite amount of needs in public infrastructure, but finite resources available to meet those needs. So it's a balancing act. You have to determine, given the fiscal constraints, what decisions can legitimately be made to the net benefit of the economy and to the fiscal realities that the government currently faces."
The government issued a request for proposals (RFP) last year, originally intending to separate BEC's power generation duties from its distribution duties. Subsequent statements from Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who has Cabinet responsibility for BEC, hinted that the government was down to a shortlist of "two or three" bidders, but was possibly reconsidering that path.
Rolle told Guardian Business on Wednesday that the administration is "reviewing what the options are and who the potential players [might be]".
"I can't say [who the bidders are, or even how many]. It's still a discussion taking place at the Cabinet level, and I don't want to preempt any decision or influence adversely any decision that is going to be made by speaking about the details publicly," he said.
Guardian Business pressed the minister for a timeline for completing the RFP process.
"As quickly as possible," he said. "Let's just say it is urgent and we are urgently looking at a resolution to the high cost of energy."

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Ryan Pinder: Let foreign lawyers in

October 22, 2014

In a move he acknowledged was likely to ruffle feathers, Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder said yesterday it is time to allow select foreign law firms to operate within The Bahamas' financial services industry.
Speaking at the 2014 Nassau Conference, Pinder argued that opening the doors to internationally diverse law firms in The Bahamas would further stimulate the country's financial services sector by attracting foreign business from regional competitors with somewhat more relaxed foreign work policies.
"I propose that it is time we consider allowing foreign law firms with the necessary expertise to enter and operate from within The Bahamas in the financial services industry.
"We can do it in a fashion where entrepreneurial opportunities and knowledge transfer is extended to Bahamian attorneys," said Pinder.
He suggested that allowing foreign law firms to practice in The Bahamas would enhance the country's human capital and lead to further opportunities for Bahamian entrepreneurs.
"Not only will this allow us to meet the demands of industry, transfer knowledge in expertise areas to Bahamian practitioners and further entrepreneurial opportunities in partnership with select foreign law firms, it will immediately result in an increase in business for the industry as a whole," the minister said.
Pinder has previously suggested on multiple occasions that The Bahamas has the requisite human capital to meet the country's growing needs for compliance and additional financial services.
Pinder singled out the British Virgin Islands (BVI) as a jurisdiction that The Bahamas could emulate, stating that international law firms' ability to refer business between regional branches is the main factor behind the BVI's prominence.
"In Asia, the British Virgin Islands is the number one financial center. This isn't because there is anything unique about the BVI. In fact, I put forward that The Bahamas has more diverse offerings in both products and services," stated Pinder.
The announcement is likely to be met with resistance from the Bahamas Bar Association (BBA), which has defended the country's protectionist work policies.
However, members of the BBA earlier this year called for balance in the government's approach, warning that both "xenophobic" and "open sesame" policies regarding foreign lawyers are detrimental to The Bahamas.
Pinder acknowledged the challenges such a proposal would face, but stressed that the initiative is required to develop the sector.
"This policy shift will only come about through engagement with the legal professionals, especially in this new transparent world where new expertise is required and new business can be developed.
"This engagement is not going to be easy, not going to be straightforward, but it is professional level engagement that is required for growth. We can all come out ahead with a properly structured professional services network worldwide that supports growth and entrepreneurism to Bahamian practitioners," he said.

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185 mil. airport redevelopment 'an absolute necessity'

October 22, 2014

Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin said the price tag for redeveloping airports throughout The Bahamas - previously pegged at about $100 million by Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle - is estimated to be almost $185 million, based on the completion of an audit of the airport infrastructure by government and Canadian consultants, Stantec.
The minister said that, while recent stopover visitor figures "clearly indicated growth" in the country's tourism sector, an overhaul of the country's transport infrastructure is an "absolute necessity" in its modernization efforts.
Speaking at the 2014 Exuma Business Outlook conference yesterday, Hanna-Martin stated that 22,000 visitors traveled by air to Exuma for the first half of 2014, compared to 19,000 visitors for the same period last year, a 15 percent increase.
"The numbers clearly indicate growth in stopover air arrivals to Exuma," said Hanna-Martin.
The figures follow similarly positive visitor statistics released earlier this week by the Ministry of Tourism, which indicate that foreign air and sea arrivals to the Family Islands had grown 10 percent between January and July 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.
Hanna-Martin indicated that approximately 1.06 million passengers traveled through Family Island airports last year, of which 63 percent were domestic passengers.
She added that passenger demand is projected to increase annually by 2.4 percent over the next two decades to reach 1.7 million by 2033.
Despite the encouraging numbers, Hanna-Martin stressed that Exuma's Moss Town airport is in dire need of structural improvement and is a high priority target for the government.
"These visitors and our own citizens are transiting through an airport terminal that has outgrown its capacity, leading to an inability to adequately accommodate passengers, especially during peak hours. The terminal is physically deteriorating.
"It lacks efficiency and therefore undermines the economic viability of this island, including the negative first impression that one may garner," stated Hanna-Martin.
The minister stated that the government and Canadian consultants Stantec would create a "master plan" for airport redevelopment in Exuma and other Family Islands following a comprehensive audit of the country's airports.
One of the most important engines in fueling economic growth and solidifying our social strength is our airport network, said Hanna-Martin.
Initial estimates for a complete overhaul of the country's airport infrastructure amounted to approximately $185 million.
The report categorizes the Moss Town airport as a tier 1 facility, described as a "significant port of entry gateway for the Family Islands, which has the economic opportunity to be operationally sustainable."
Six of the country's 28 Family Island airports were placed in this tier.
Hanna-Martin hopes that the plan would be completed within several weeks.

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New fee regime for banks, trust companies

October 22, 2014

Ahead of the passage of legislation that would place cooperative credit unions under the authority of The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBB), the bank's examiners are already conducting examining exercises within the sector, according to a letter from the bank's inspector of bank and trust companies to senior cooperative credit union officials.
In his letter for the third quarter of 2014, issued on October 21, Inspector Abhilash Bhachech said the bank continues to work to conclude the newly-proposed legislation that would allow the CBB to take supervisory and regulatory responsibility for financial cooperative credit unions.
"In the interim, however, and to facilitate a seamless transition, our team of on-site examiners, in conjunction with the Department of Cooperatives, has been fully vested in conducting examination exercises within the sector, and developing the new policy and operational frameworks," he said.

New fee system
In the wake of the passage of new legislation, Bhachech said the CBB anticipates a "smooth transition" to a license fee payment system in 2015. He noted that the law has been amended to allow for annual license fees to be collected by the bank and remitted to the treasury.
"We have since completed our internal process and all of the relevant details have been communicated to you," he said. "We anticipate a smooth transition to this new payment system for issuance of license fee invoices for the year 2015."

ORIMS
Bhachech also noted that the CBB intends to introduce a
web-based reporting interface as part of a new online reporting and information management system (ORIMS).
He said the CBB team is making good progress on the ORIMS system, which is presently under development. The ORIMS, he said, would provide enhanced efficiencies in the bank's regulatory mechanisms.
Bhachech noted that CBB will be hosting information sessions on the system in the first week of November, details of which will be disseminated in the coming week.

Credit bureau
Bhachech stressed the ongoing consultation on the Draft Credit Reporting Bill 2014 and the Draft Credit Reporting Regulations 2014, through which the government will see the establishment of a credit bureau for the first time in The Bahamas.
The bank views the establishment of a credit bureau as an important part of the development of the financial sector, Bhachech said. He said such a bureau will be important in the sector's ability to facilitate greater efficiency in lending activities and support the bank's overall objective of supporting financial stability.

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Sumner: BCCEC's work continues 'uninterrupted'

October 22, 2014

Chief Executive Officer of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) Edison Sumner says that while Rob Myers "brought invaluable new energy and focus to the chamber," the work of the chamber continues uninterrupted by Myers' successor, Gowon Bowe, and the directors of each of the 15 divisions of the chamber.
Myers' contribution was especially important, Sumner said, with respect to private sector advocacy on the implementation of value-added tax (VAT), fiscal reform and responsibility, energy reform and attention to increasing value to membership.
"The membership of the chamber has grown under his leadership," Sumner said of Myers. "The BCCEC works from 15 core fundamentals or basic principles as a chamber where, no matter who is at the helm as chairman, the fundamentals remain unchanged. However, each person elected as chairman of the chamber comes with his/her vision and objectives that they would like to see fulfilled during their tenure."
Sumner told Guardian Business that, while Myers had been of tremendous value to the chamber, "because of the administrative structure of the organization, the work of the chamber continues uninterrupted by his successor, Gowon Bowe, with the support of the CEO and the board of directors."
"Further, the chamber has over 15 divisions, each headed by a director overseeing the activities of that division. Each division has a mandate, and we are satisfied that the mandates for the most part are being carried out successfully for the benefit of our membership and the private sector at large. Mr. Myers' contributions to the chamber are stellar, and he inspired the directors working with him to understand that the BCCEC is larger than any one person, or small group of people," Sumner said.
Directors are elected annually to serve on the board. This, Sumner explained, allows for others interested in serving as directors to do so and to bring new and fresh ideas to the BCCEC.

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U.S. Embassy presents RBPF with state-of-the-art digital fingerprint technology

October 22, 2014

Continuing cooperation under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), the United States government and 12 CARICOM nations, including The Bahamas, recently partnered to implement the CBSI Digital Fingerprint Program to assist in regional crime fighting initiatives. The state-of-the-art $1.8 million regional project was designed to provide Caribbean countries with the capability to collect, store and analyze fingerprint data in a digital format that meets international standards in order to facilitate regional and international data sharing.
One of the advantages of the digital fingerprint initiative is a "cross search" capability that allows law enforcement officials to work with their regional counterparts to determine if suspicious people or individuals with criminal records also have criminal histories in another country. During the first phase of the project implementation, Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) officials participated in an extensive survey to determine current digital fingerprint capability in The Bahamas. The second phase involved the update and validation of the survey data, confirmation of the number of paper fingerprint cards to be converted to digital images and the identification of hardware and software requirements needed to implement the Digital Fingerprint Program. RBPF officers also received advanced training on topics including the automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS), digital fingerprint work stations, the conversion of paper records to digital format and biometrics. The digital fingerprint program went fully operational in The Bahamas in June 2014.
Funding for the digital fingerprint program was provided by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The program was implemented by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Office of Antiterrorism Assistance in conjunction with the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

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Govt, BHTA host VAT seminar for GB tourism sector

October 22, 2014

Tourism-related businesses throughout Grand Bahama gathered at the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association's (BHTA) value-added tax (VAT) workshop in Freeport, Grand Bahama on Monday, October 20, 2014. The workshop in Grand Bahama was one of a number of workshops planned for tourism-sector-specific businesses throughout the Commonwealth as part of a private/public sector collaborative effort to engage and educate businesses and individuals in regards to the imminent arrival of value-added tax.
Readiness sessions on Nassau and Grand Bahama for the tourism industry over the past several weeks have attracted nearly 300 participants.
Subsequent sessions are planned throughout the Family Islands, with the Ministry of Finance providing educators and training material, and the BHTA and Ministry of Tourism facilitating the roll-out of the readiness sessions. Sessions held thus far have been successful, as attendees are given training on everything from VAT basics to a heightened understanding, which incorporates aspects of VAT which are specific and impactful to the tourism sector, such as price packaging to wholesalers and online travel agencies, marketing and dealing with transitional considerations. The sessions have been well-received, with many businesses calling for the commencement of workshops in their locations.

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Luxury charter flights set for Bahama Islands out of South Florida
Luxury charter flights set for Bahama Islands out of South Florida

October 22, 2014

Charter service offering luxury flights to five Bahama Islands, Spring 2015...

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Bahamas Stripping: Now a Full Road Maintenance Service Company

October 22, 2014

Caribbean Pavement Solutions, a subsidiary of Bahamas Striping Group of Companies, most recently introduced its revolutionary product, Rejuvaseal to the Bahamian market...

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BTC Business Tour Marks 3rd Quarter of First Year for LIME CEO
BTC Business Tour Marks 3rd Quarter of First Year for LIME CEO

October 22, 2014

Marking a nine month milestone in his first year as the CEO of Cable & Wireless Plc (CWC) Phil Bentley is leading an employee ‘getting to know you’ BTC Team Talk Live visit that will bring him in touch with BTC employees nationwide...

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Scotiabank Partners with Bahamas National Trust
Scotiabank Partners with Bahamas National Trust

October 22, 2014

Scotiabank has partnered with the Bahamas National Trust to host the 2014 Wine & Art Festival scheduled for this weekend. The Festival is a major source of funding for the Bahamas National Trust, one of the Bahamas'...

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