Business

Human Rights groups at Washington hearing on immigration policy
Human Rights groups at Washington hearing on immigration policy

March 20, 2015

HUMAN rights groups have been making final preparations ahead of their presentation to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the government's new immigration enforcement policy today...

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Government Printing Department to Hold its Second Open House and Expo

March 20, 2015

The Government Printing Department in collaboration with other government agencies will be holding an open house and expo to showcase the Department’s achievements...

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Burrows: Cable Bahamas already has infrastructure for cell market move
Burrows: Cable Bahamas already has infrastructure for cell market move

March 20, 2015

CABLE Bahamas Limited's Vice-president of Marketing David Burrows yesterday announced that his company already has the necessary infrastructure in place to revolutionise the country's cellular market and employ 150-250 Bahamians if granted the nation's second mobile cellular licence...

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Union not yet told by BTC about response to severance
Union not yet told by BTC about response to severance

March 20, 2015

BAHAMAS Communications and Public Officers Union President Bernard Evans said yesterday he suspects only a small number of employees applied for voluntary separation packages from the Bahamas Telecommunications Company...

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Only one new hotel to open at Baha Mar

March 19, 2015

New Baha Mar Vice President Alyssa Bushey has confirmed what many in the community have long suspected: only one of the four new Baha Mar hotels scheduled to open on the new deadline of March 27 will, in fact, open.
Local Baha Mar spokespersons have been silent on the fact, as have government representatives, who have touted the $3.5 billion mega resort as the source for more than 5,000 jobs and a major engine for economic renewal.
The Baha Mar Resort and Casino - a nearly 1,000-room property with a 100,000 square foot casino - will open as scheduled, according to Bushey, who has served as vice president of communications at Baha Mar since January 2015.
Time and again, Baha Mar has insisted - most recently just over a week ago - that the Baha Mar Resort and Casino, the SLS Lux and the Rosewood would open with a majority of rooms. The state of construction at the site has long suggested that the March 27 date was a physical impossibility, but nonetheless Baha Mar spokespeople continued to assert that the opening would go forth as planned, and that it would not be a "soft opening," either.
Now, Bushey - speaking to industry publication Travel Weekly - could not give specific dates for the other properties, although a search on the Baha Mar Casino and Hotel's website shows first rooms available to the public starting April 13, while the website for the SLS property shows availability starting April 29. The Rosewood Baha Mar is taking reservations for stays starting in June, according to its phone-reservation representative.
Baha Mar broke ground in February 2011. The project had been scheduled to open to the public by the end of 2014 until last August, when the opening date was pushed back until this spring.
Baha Mar is the largest resort project in the Caribbean, and also the largest project ever undertaken by China Construction America (CCA) and its parent company, China State Construction Engineering Company, outside China. Just as the Izmirlian family and the Christie Administration are banking on the mega resort, so is the Chinese government, which funded the project to the tune of $2.5 billion through the China Export Import Bank. CCA is hoping that Baha Mar will prove its ability to build large scale projects in this hemisphere, and imported thousands of Chinese workers to build the project.
The delays have not stopped.
The Grand Hyatt is set to open on May 1, and the former 694-room Sheraton Nassau Beach Hotel, now the Melia Nassau Beach, is supposed to be renamed the Melia at Baha Mar once that property completes its $19 million renovation.
The property, which will be Baha Mar's only all-inclusive resort, is scheduled to be completed early next year.

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Halkitis satisfied with AML/CTF regime, despite U.S. concern

March 19, 2015

In the wake of a damning report from the U.S. State Department on the country's anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing (AML/CTF) regime - specifically as relating to joint counter narcotics efforts - Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis yesterday said he was largely satisfied with that regime and in response called on the U.S. to live up to its obligation to stem the flow of weapons from North America into The Bahamas while this country continues to work to protect the financial services sector from abuse.
Halkitis did not deny the assertions contained in the report. In that report, the 2015 International Counter Narcotics Strategy Report presented to the U.S. Congress, the U.S. State Department asserted that drug traffickers took advantage of The Bahamas' financial sector, stating that ensuring the reputation of the jurisdiction was "paramount" in developing the country's financial services sector.
Halkitis told NB12 that while the government was currently in the process of bolstering the resources of the Financial Intelligence unit (FIU) to crack down on money laundering within the country, adding that he was largely satisfied with The Bahamas' current AML/CTF regulatory regime.
"We feel that we have a very robust regulatory regime so the fact that we do not have any convictions we think it's a reflection of the robustness of that regime. Of course we will continue to revise our laws to ensure that we maintain our reputation as a sound financial jurisdiction. We are in the process right now of making available to them more resources in terms of human resources and IT, because they have expressed to us that they are beginning to see a backlog of requests and we are resourcing them so that they can attack that, bring it down. We're committed to doing it because we recognize that the reputation of our jurisdiction is paramount if we want to grow our financial services industry," he said.
The State Department on Wednesday released its 2015 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), which held that various criminal organizations were taking advantage of international business companies (IBC) and offshore banks registered in The Bahamas for money laundering purposes despite The Bahamas' strict know-your-customer (KYC) and transaction reporting requirements.
Chief among the report's recommendations was the need for the FIU and royal Bahamas Police Force to "continue its outreach, training and coordination with banking and non-banking sectors to assist institutions in implementing and maintaining effective suspicious transaction report (STR) regimes."
In addition to local efforts, Halkitis asked the government's U.S. partners to keep their obligation to stem the flow of weapons from North America into The Bahamas following a report year in 2014 for marijuana seizure and eradication by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the U.S. Coast Guard.
"In the narcotics report I did not see much discussion about the traffic of guns from the United States into The Bahamas and perhaps next year in the report we can have a discussion on that in terms of what the U.S. is doing to help us to stem some of the shipment of guns. We know that the geographic location of The Bahamas puts it right along the route of the countries that produce and the markets where there is demand for the drugs, so naturally we'll have problems with transshipment. We are expending significant resources. We are spending close to $250 million to resource the defense force and we are spending millions of dollars every year to train our police force. We're working hard on those fronts, but as we know the drugs go in one direction and the guns come in this direction," said Halkitis.
Halkitis commended the Swift Justice initiative, which he said had seen the time from arraignment to trial go from 900 days before 2012 to 230 days in 2014, adding that the heightened amount of marijuana seizures last year was an indication of the effectiveness of enforcement.

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Continued U.S. concern over Bahamas aviation sector, drug activity

March 19, 2015

The U.S. State Department says Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organizations continue to play a major role in movement of cocaine and those organizations are "increasingly networked between Haiti and the significant Haitian diaspora in The Bahamas;" that its investigations reveal that Bahamian drug trafficking organizations use the Turks and Caicos Islands as a transshipment point, and that certain flights coming into The Bahamas "remain a transshipment route for contraband smuggling."
Meanwhile, huge increases in cocaine and marijuana seizures in The Bahamas not only speak to the effectiveness of anti-drug operations, they also suggest a possibility that traffickers are establishing new sources for marijuana destined for both local and international markets.
The assessments were contained in the 2015 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, an annual report provided by the Department of State to the U.S. Congress. It describes the steps taken during the previous year by the governments of nearly 90 countries, including The Bahamas, to reduce illicit narcotics production, trafficking and use. The 2015 report was released on March 18.
The report again stated that aviation routes are a cause for concern, asserting that small, privately owned and operated planes ferry loads of cocaine from and between significant source countries in South America into the Caribbean.
"Law enforcement information suggests that drug trafficking organizations sometimes utilize airdrops and remote airfields to deliver large cocaine shipments to the Turks and Caicos Islands and to The Bahamas from Venezuela and Colombia," the State Department reported.
The report also noted that Customs and Border Protection officers working at pre-clearance facilities at the Nassau and Freeport international airports have interdicted cocaine, marijuana, and currency.
"To attract tourism from its Spanish-speaking neighbors, The Bahamas concluded an agreement in 2011 to allow Panama-based Copa Airlines to begin daily flights between Nassau and Panama. The flights remain a transshipment route for contraband smuggling," the 2015 report said.
The report specifically highlighted activities in supply reduction, noting that under Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) U.S. law enforcement agencies integrate with the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) to gather intelligence, conduct investigations, and execute interdictions. These operations are supported by marine, technical, and other resources provided through U.S. assistance programs: the State Department points out that given the small population and significant territory to cover, pooling U.S. and Bahamian resources and knowledge are essential to efficient deterrence and interdiction.
"In 2014, OPBAT operations in The Bahamas led to the seizure of 1.59 metric tons (MT) of cocaine; 746.8 MT of marijuana; 738,000 marijuana plants; 1.54 kilograms (kg) of heroin; 32 kg of hashish; 7.94 kg of ecstasy; 92 arrests, and $441,264 in currency. This represented a significant increase in seized cocaine and marijuana over 2013, when 1.01 MT and 27.92 MT were seized respectively. In addition, the number of marijuana plants destroyed via manual eradication surpassed the total number of plants eradicated in 2012 and 2013 combined, a possible indicator that traffickers are establishing new sources for marijuana destined for both local and international markets," the State Department said.
The report also spoke to investigations that reveal Bahamian drug trafficking organizations use the Turks and Caicos Islands as a transshipment point.
"Strong familial connections between the Turks and Caicos Islands and The Bahamas, coupled with direct flights between Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands, result in many Bahamian smugglers traveling to Haiti via the Turks and Caicos Islands with large amounts of cash for future smuggling ventures. The Turks and Caicos Islands represent a regional vulnerability due to a lack of sufficient law enforcement resources," the State Department asserted.

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OAS elects new leadership with transformation agenda

March 19, 2015

The member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) have elected former Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro as the next secretary-general and Ambassador of Belize Nestor Mendez as assistant secretary-general of the hemispheric body, and it is clear from both men that institutional change is on their agenda.
Almagro ran unopposed, and will replace Jose Miguel Insulza, who's term ends on May 25. Mendez won over Ambassador Bayney Karran of Guyana, who had also tossed his hat into the ring, and will succeed Albert Ramdin on July 12.
One of Almagro's major planks is interconnectivity in the Caribbean.
"This will be an initiative to overcome digital connectivity divides, and develop more even commercial use of rivers and air traffic, so as to attract investment to the region and boost progress and jobs for young people," he said during a concise, almost blunt acceptance speech.
The secretary-general-elect said there is a need to inject "a little realism" into the OAS and to focus on what he felt the organization can do better than any other: political dialogue with tangible results in key areas for Democracy, Human Rights, Security, and the Integral Development of the Americas.
"I am not interested in administering the crisis in the OAS. I am bent on facilitating the emergence of a revitalized OAS," Almagro said.
He highlighted the important areas in his 'work program' - which he noted would require the OAS to realign the budget and embark on a restructuring and modernization. The program includes citizen security, which he noted was one of the two or three top concerns in all the countries of the Hemisphere.
"We will work together with multilateral organizations on a hemispheric initiative, adopting a comprehensive approach to the problem," he said.
Almagro also committed to a School of Governance, which would help train civil servants and civil society by endowing them with tools for good governance, transparency, accountability, and for forging consensus.
On preventing social conflicts, he said his administration would facilitate dialogue between regional and international investors and the states and communities in key productive sectors that generate wealth and conflicts about how that wealth is distributed.
In addition to the interconnectivity initiative, he also said he would develop a coordinated network of best practices with the United Nations and multilateral organizations on natural disaster prevention and management in the Caribbean and Central America.
And he said the Pan American Network on the Quality of Education would enable the region to move on from achievements in enhancing access to education to achievements in enhancing the impact of education at higher levels.
"I have instructed those who will make up my transition team to begin the tasks of preparing the actions needed to implement that agenda, including the installation of an international committee of experts to come up with recommendations as to how to fine-tune the results-based budget and thereby inject a new culture into the Organization," Almagro said.
Mendez, during his acceptance speech, spoke to what he saw as a "clear mandate and an unwavering commitment" to "together to transform the OAS into the organization that we want and that the people of the Americas deserve." He called such a transformation "a debt to the peoples of the Americas."
"Today we begin a new stage in our organization; we look to the future with optimism that together we can change and improve this valuable organization," Mendez said.
He committed to working with Almagro "to transform this organization," and working with the OAS General Secretariat "toward the transformation of the institutional culture into one that is more responsive to the needs of the member states."
Dr. Elliston Rahming, Permanent Representative of The Bahamas, was present for the elections.
The Bahamas became a member of the Organization of Americas States on March 3, 1982.

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GBSL exec touts free trade zone model, says govt should expand

March 19, 2015

While the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA) may have failed to live up to its full potential, the government should strongly consider expanding Freeport's free trade zone model to other Family Islands to stimulate economic growth outside of Freeport and New Providence, according to Giora Israel, senior vice president for port and destination development for Carnival Corporation and a board member of the Grand Bahama Shipyard Limited (GBSL).
Israel told Guardian Business that it was critical that the government not scrap the free trade zone blueprint established in Freeport ahead of looming expirations of several critical tax exemptions under the HCA. While Israel, a key player in the conception of the GBSL, acknowledged that the HCA faced criticism given its pre-independence origins, he stressed that it had a great degree of untapped potential.
"A lot of governments are building duty free or special taxation areas. Most countries have things like that. The Hawksbill Creek Agreement, although it goes back before independence for The Bahamas and a lot of people question it, it's not unusual to have a structure like this in The Bahamas.
"Why don't we have another one in Andros? There should be more of these areas. I know The Bahamas, and in giving those economic benefits will spawn more and more activities. We're for keeping Grand Bahama very competitive and the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, though it ultimately maybe didn't deliver everything it was expected to, [resulted] in one of the biggest port operators in the world with the container terminal and the Grand Bahama Shipyard, the world's number one cruise ship repair facility," he said.
Prime Minister Perry Christie questioned the success of the HCA given the state of Grand Bahama's economy earlier this month at the Grand Bahama Business Outlook (GBBO), confirming that the government would allow some of the tax exemptions under the HCA, most notably for business license fees and real property tax, to expire in August 2015.
However, Israel countered that the HCA concessions played as much of a role as Freeport's geographic proximity to the U.S. in developing the GBSL, if not more. Other Freeport stakeholders, including the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, have repeatedly appealed to the government to renew the concessions, especially given Grand Bahama's current economic malaise.
"Every government has a system of taxation and fees and obviously Grand Bahama through the Hawksbill Creek Agreement is a very unique set of circumstances.
"Having said that, many countries have special economic zones where certain tax breaks are designed to allow economical development. Everybody says that Freeport was important to build the shipyard because of proximity [to the U.S.], but the benefits under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement were a key reason to build the Grand Bahama Shipyard. Business needs to be encouraged because they create employment, economic activity, and that's a top priority for any government," Israel said.
Despite the uncertainty and private sector unrest surrounding Freeport's future, particularly once the tax incentives under the HCA expire, Israel was convinced that the city's "best years" had yet to come if only Bahamians capitalized on the opportunities before them.
"The promise is there. There was a setback on tourism, unfortunately, and we all know the story of the Princess and Our Lucaya, but I think the best years of Freeport are ahead but the people of Grand Bahama and the people of The Bahamas generally need to grab the opportunity and run with it," he said.

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Freeport shipyard must watch Cuba 'very carefully'

March 19, 2015

Freeport must watch Cuba "very carefully" as it expands its tourism product and cruise ship capacity if The Bahamas is to maintain its market share of the cruise ship repair industry, according to top Grand Bahama Shipyard Limited (GBSL) officials.
When asked if an influx of cruise ships to Cuba presented the GBSL an opportunity for new business should cruise lines redirect their ships from other international markets, GBSL CEO Carl-Gustaf Rotkirch told Guardian Business, "It depends a little of course depending on how The Bahamas is responding to the liberalization of business possibilities in Cuba.
"It may also be a threat to us so we need to look very carefully at that point. If Cuba starts developing ship repair that can compete with us, then we have to be on top of that."
U.S. President Barack Obama said in December that the U.S. would strengthen its diplomatic ties with Cuba, prompting a mix of fear and cautious optimism throughout the Bahamian tourism sector over The Bahamas' ability to sustain U.S. visitor numbers in the face of fresh competition.
GBSL board member Giora Israel said that while Cuba did not represent an immediate threat to the GBSL due to its lack of infrastructure, regional pressure from the U.S., Mexico, and potentially Cuba could take a bite out of the GBSL's business, which already faces competition with shipyards as widespread as Palermo, Italy and Singapore.
"With the opening of Cuba, when and if it opens up to [U.S.] travel, then the question is: is there the quality, equipment, and support that has been established in Freeport to provide the same quality of work, especially for the big ships, that currently exists in The Bahamas.
"Every competitor in this business can take a chunk out of our business. We're not worried as a shipyard, but we are concerned. We want to remain competitive, we want to retain the great workforce that we have, and that will ensure that the place of the shipyard will continue," said Israel.

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FCIB hoping to deepen relations with Baha Mar

March 19, 2015

A week ahead of the opening of the Baha Mar, CIBC FirstCaribbean executive Trevor Torzsas said his institution - like the rest of the country, and the region - was looking forward to the opening of the $3.5 billion mega resort as both a catalyst for economic growth in the overall economy and as a potential and already real market for banking services.
Torzsas is managing director of customer relationship management and strategy at the bank, and is based in Nassau. He spoke to Guardian Business about Baha Mar at his offices on West Bay Street.
"We hope to have different relationships with Baha Mar and the Baha Mar group of companies over time. We do have some, and with a development that size, it's a big percentage of the overall country. We have a lot of individuals who work at Baha Mar bank with us; people buying properties bank with us; the businesses going in and around the complex bank with us," he acknowledged.
"As one of the prominent banks in the country, we have a variety of relationships to that development."
In fact, Torzsas said the size and scale of Baha Mar - and the consequent draw it would be to U.S. travellers - is "exciting." Whenever the economic health of the country improves, he said, it is good for the bank. The resort is set to open on March 27. It has been the subject of reams of pages and hours of footage, not all of it positive.
Still, Torzsas is convinced that the surging tourism sector - exemplified by the strong air arrivals touted by Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday - could only be good for the economy. The trend is region-wide, marking a strengthening of Caribbean economies.

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Financial Services Minister Encourages Bahamas Millenials To Heed Advice of Mentors

March 19, 2015

Minister of Financial Services the Hon. Hope Strachan told members of the Bahamas Millennials Society (BMS) at their Future Leadership Forum on Wednesday that networking and the transference of knowledge is important in Financial Services...

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A Unique Career Opportunity for COB Students
A Unique Career Opportunity for COB Students

March 19, 2015

More than 100 businesses students at The College of The Bahamas listened intently on Tuesday evening as Harold Antor, President of Tristar Insurance Brokers & Agents presented them with what he described as the “opportunity of a lifetime” during COB’s Career Opportunities session, a part of the college’s Business Week activities...

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Bahamian Innovator's Next Phenom product advances to finals in international competition

March 19, 2015

(Panama City, Panama) A young entrepreneur from The Bahamas was selected from over 2,730 international entrants as one the 32 finalists in this year’s Talent and Innovation Competition of the Americas. Marques Williams, who conceptualized Next Phenom, an online stage for amateur athletes will be headed to Panama City, Panama April 7 – 9, 2015 to present his product in the Economic Innovation category of the competition...

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Two members of the National Development Plan (NDP)

March 19, 2015

Two members of the National Development Plan (NDP) committee travelled to Grand Bahama on Tuesday for a series of forums as a part of the first phase of their mission...

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An eight-member delegation, led by Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, Director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Ministry of National Defence of the People's Republic of China

March 19, 2015

An eight-member delegation, led by Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, Director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Ministry of National Defence of the People's Republic of China, called on the Minister of National Security the Hon. Dr. Bernard Nottage, on March 13, 2015...

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Sandals Launches Regional Cross-Training Initiative
Sandals Launches Regional Cross-Training Initiative

March 19, 2015

Hundreds of team members to benefit from new Management Exposure Programme...

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Bible Truth Ministries, Bahamas Stripping Host Day of Prayer and Fasting for Small Businesses

March 19, 2015

Pressured by increased taxes, a still sluggish economy and a shortage of work, the plucky, young venture Bahamas Striping Group of Companies (BSGC) has teamed up with Bible Truth Ministries to hold its first, "Day of Prayer and Fasting" for small businesses...

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Business Licence Renewals Due
Business Licence Renewals Due

March 19, 2015

Business owners are advised that the deadline to submit their application to renew their business licences has past...

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PM: All BAMSI contracts insured

March 18, 2015

Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday he has been advised that all of the contractors on the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) project have all risk insurance...

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