Business

CBL Chairman Shares Solid Performance News at AGM, 'Great company with Great Potential'
CBL Chairman Shares Solid Performance News at AGM, 'Great company with Great Potential'

June 22, 2015

Calling it “an exciting business, a great company with great potential,” Commonwealth Brewery Limited Chairman Julian Francis delivered welcome news of solid performance including revenue of $124.2 million and plans for growth during the company’s...

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Beauty Stores train and Win Big with Milo Butler's Smooth 'N Shine

June 22, 2015

For two sales associates at Nicole’s Hair World & Beauty Supplies, training has paid off. Both walked away with cash prizes after winning Milo Butler’s Smooth ‘N Shine partner competition...

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EU blacklist 'means nothing', Bahamas inclusion 'disappointing'

June 21, 2015

The Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) said the new European Union (EU) tax blacklist - which includes The Bahamas - "means nothing if it fails to take into account the assessments of the true standards-setting bodies", and Financial Services Minister Hope Strachan said she is "disappointed" The Bahamas is included on the list.
This despite a raft of tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs), the signing of an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) with the U.S. on implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the decision by The Bahamas to adopt the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Standard on the Automatic Exchange of Information.
"The ministry is expressing its disappointment that The Bahamas has been included on a list, released on 17 June, 2015, of 30 jurisdictions that the EU has identified as facilitating tax evasion," she said.
The EU's tax watchdog last Wednesday unveiled a plan for tackling corporate tax avoidance and ending the practice of "sweet deals" for multinational companies. The EU also published a blacklist of 30 countries it says are not doing enough to crack down on tax avoidance.
"These tax havens cover the five continents," said Pierre Moscovici, the EU's top tax official. He urged them to quickly adopt "agreed international standards" to fight against tax evasion.
The EU plans to ensure multinationals pay taxes where they generate profits, that tax rules in one country do not penalize others, and that honest businesses don't lose out to unscrupulous competitors. The blacklist is made up of countries that figure on at least 10 national lists of tax havens compiled by the 28 member nations. Luxembourg is not on it.
The full list is: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Montserrat, Panama, Saint-Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Turks and Caicos Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Andorra, Guernsey, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Liberia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Brunei, Hong Kong, Maldives, Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Marshall Islands and Vanuatu.
The Ministry of Financial Services released a statement over the weekend.
"It is disappointing that The Bahamas has been placed on a European Union (EU) blacklist of jurisdictions that have been identified as facilitating tax evasion.
"It is also regrettable that the EU blacklist does not take into consideration the significant efforts and accomplishments experienced by The Bahamas in the area of tax transparency, both within the EU and globally.
"This includes the many Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEA's) signed by The Bahamas, progress within the OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes including the Automatic Exchange of Information," the ministry said.
The BFSB was a little more forceful, asserting that The Bahamas is compliant.
BFSB CEO Aliya Allen said, "Given the full cooperation of many countries like The Bahamas on tax transparency it is highly disappointing that these types of blacklists exist today. The Bahamas has moved, in line with the rest of the world, to adopt the OECD Standard on the Automatic Exchange of Information.
"The Bahamas is white-listed by the OECD and its 4th round mutual evaluation indicated that it was either wholly compliant or largely compliant with the criteria on tax information exchange.
"We believe this type of a consolidated list means nothing if it fails to take into account the assessments of the true standards setting bodies. A consolidation of countries' blacklists says nothing of the reasonableness of the criteria involved in creating them."
Richard Hay, Co-Chair, STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) International Committee, said in his introduction to the report "Deconstructing National Tax Blacklists: Removing Obstacles to Cross-Border Trade in Financial Services," that arbitrary blacklisting has the realpolitik advantage of enabling countries to threaten weaker and smaller states while avoiding affront to competitors powerful enough to retaliate.
"Blacklists also fuel a convenient perception that there is something inherently immoral about using tax-efficient structures in smaller states.
"Establishing a tax-free international business company (IBC) in a small blacklisted jurisdiction, for example, is often frowned upon. However establishing a similarly tax-free limited liability company (LLC) in the USA - never blacklisted because of its capacity to hit back - is seen as conventional. The perception is curious, as tax-free U.S. LLCs are permitted to operate with undisclosed ownership and no obligation to maintain financial statements, while IBCs in smaller states are subject to much greater transparency requirements," Hay said.

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BIA suggests 'factions' within govt causing confusion on NHI

June 21, 2015

A top Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) official has said there appears to be contradictory "factions" within the government's planning process that have left private insurers largely in the dark, and has called for "real consultations" between the government and representatives of the private insurance sector over the implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI).
Speaking with Guardian Business, BIA Chairman Emmanuel Komolafe posited that lecture series and ad hoc meetings with members of the BIA and individual insurers did not constitute adequate consultation with the private insurance industry, especially if the suggestions
and recommendations put forward by the BIA are not being discussed or incorporated into the proposed scheme. He noted that in relation to NHI and other matters, the insurance industry is united and speaks with one voice through the BIA. This comes after recent comments from Minister of Health Perry Gomez suggested that the government was satisfied with the current level of insurer input in shaping NHI.
When NB12 questioned Gomez on the insurance sector's concerns the minister suggested that while future consultations with stakeholders were not out of the realm of possibility, they were not a pressing matter.
"There have been consultations, maybe not to the extent that they want. Perhaps we have to continue to do more but we have been in consultation with them in several meetings... I think the question is the amount of consultation so we're open for it," said Gomez.
However, Komolafe told Guardian Business that the BIA had yet to receive any formal government response to the BIA's position paper on NHI more than two months after it was published. He noted that the Office of the Prime Minister and National Security Minister had acknowledged receipt of the paper recently: the document was sent to all cabinet ministers. That paper, which warned against a "hostile takeover" of the insurance industry, charged that Costa Rican health consultancy Sanigest Internacional had undervalued the true cost of implementing NHI by some $300 million.
Sanigest presented the government with a range of NHI schemes costing between $362 million on the low end up to $633 million annually. However, the BIA's position paper argued that the true cost of NHI could cost upwards of $1 billion.
The BIA issued a strongly worded statement last week charging that the government is sending "mixed signals" regarding the way forward with NHI. The insurers said that they were "seriously concerned" that Sanigest appeared set in its implementation plans without further consideration of the BIA's recommendations as outlined in their position paper.
This, the BIA believed, contradicted Christie's earlier vow of considered consultative work with the private sector stakeholders private health insurance companies in relation to the design and implementation of NHI.
"We call on the government to bring some order and structure to the implementation and consultation process in the national interest. It is apparent that there is a lack of coordination between the ministries, agencies and consultants involved with helping us achieve the progressive objective of universal health coverage," read the BIA's earlier statement.
When asked about the government sending "mixed signals" regarding consultation with private insurers, Gomez only replied: "I don't know anything about that."
Gomez's announcement that the government had developed a vital benefits package was a particular sticking point for the BIA, which stated that it had given no input in such development. The lack of consultation, Komolafe argued, demonstrated a "total disregard" of the BIA's concerns and position paper.
However, Gomez had indicated that wide-ranging industry participation would be sought in defining the vital benefits package and additional services.
He spoke at the Ministry of Health and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Workshop on UHC last month.
"Most of the thinking and ideas around the vital benefit package, the proposed Model of Care, and the concepts of the pathway to single governance, will be re-visited, fine-tuned and crystallized for harmonization and synergy.
"The preparedness process has not just began in earnest but is gaining momentum as the involvement of stakeholder groups are expanded with in-depth participation," Gomez said at the time.
Komolafe felt as though Gomez's contributions contrasted "night and day" with Christie's budget communication indicating the way forward on NHI. The Prime Minister had stated that NHI will be phased in to ensure that it is affordable and sustainable. He also promised better private sector consultation while confirming that the scheme would be rolled out in phases to minimize any disruption to the economy; comments that were well received by the BIA. The BIA, Komolafe said, was now left waiting for the government to clarify its course of action.
"The industry is prepared to make sacrifices where appropriate to make universal health coverage a reality in The Bahamas. We are aware that our business models and product offering may have to evolve as we work with the government to achieve the noble goal of UHC. However, if there's a disregard for what we're saying and they just keep going along with whatever their proposal is, it makes cooperation and collaboration much more difficult," said Komolafe.
The government's rhetoric has lent credence to Komolafe's concerns. Although Christie has remained committed to advancing NHI in January 2016 with the input of industry stakeholders, Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson last month dismissed the BIA's concerns by insisting that "they are at the table."
Despite the present concerns over inadequate input in driving NHI, the BIA has voiced its support of UHC in The Bahamas. Other private sector associations, such as the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) and Bahamas Hotel & Tourism Association, have also thrown their weight behind the push for UHC but have called for wider consultations and cost analyses.
"While the government is doing its best to address the myriad challenges we face, we are still confronted by low economic growth and high unemployment. The last thing you want to do is further disrupt the economy by not implementing an important initiative as UHC properly in a manner that is affordable and sustainable because you have the wrong figures," Komolafe said, noting that the stark difference between the BIA's and Sanigest's cost estimates warranted greater dialogue between the relevant parties. Moody's had earlier expressed some concerns while commenting on the 2015/2016; stating that the government's NHI plans may create "upward pressures" on recurrent revenue.
Although Komolafe welcomed the prime minister's allocation of $60 million to help strengthen the existing health system starting in 2016 over a predicted payroll tax, he remained concerned over the dearth of information regarding a timeframe for implementation.
"We are appealing to the Prime minister to bring some order to the consultation process and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
"It appears that there is currently a disjointed and uncoordinated approach to the implementation of UHC with responses to queries varying depending on the Ministry or audience. This is why it's important for the government to reign this in as soon as possible to address the misinformation, confusion and resultant uncertainty presently surrounding NHI," said Komolafe.

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Govt still focused on downtown rezoning

June 21, 2015

Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis has restated the government's intent to revise zoning laws in Downtown Nassau to stimulate economic growth in the area.
And while Davis told Guardian Business that property owners have not necessarily met the government's plans for redevelopment and rezoning with resistance, he said that downtown stakeholders are still struggling to reach a consensus on the way forward for Downtown Nassau.
"It is in ongoing discussions because a lot of the property downtown is privately owned with a mix of some government-owned [property]. There have been some plans put forward with the advent of the redevelopment of the Hilton hotel and the possibility of again entering into a public-private partnership for that redevelopment, including the reclamation of about 100 to 200 feet of the seabed from Prince George Dock to near the bridge," said Davis.
In January, China Construction America (CCA) Senior Vice President Daniel Liu said the redevelopment of Downtown Nassau has long been a "deferred promise" that runs the risk of damaging The Bahamas' brand if it is not addressed in short order. Liu called on the government to step up to the plate and make a decision on the area's redevelopment plan.
Liu at the time hoped that CCA's purchase of the British Colonial Hilton in October 2014 would serve as a catalyst for redevelopment, which CCA hopes would include waterfront condos and hotels, which would necessitate rezoning the area to allow for taller structures.
The proposed rezoning has also received a fair share of support from local businesspersons, who have argued that the move would revitalize economic activity downtown by creating a residential component.
In the meantime, Davis hopes that smaller infrastructure and revitalization initiatives, such as those conducted by the Downtown Nassau Partnership (DNP), would breath new life into the area.
"There's also the revisiting the rezoning of downtown to allow taller buildings and of course there are [myriad] views on that and the question is trying to reach overall consensus of how that's going to be.
"I think it's just traditions and traditional thinking [regarding] the original plan as to what downtown should be like. The question is should we disturb that vision.
"I think it's in ongoing discussions but it will happen. We've seen some of the improvements to downtown [such as] Pompey Square and the sidewalks. Those are some of the low-hanging fruits that we have picked," he said.

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Pension funds a new source of PPP capital

June 21, 2015

As cash-strapped governments around the region turn to public-private partnerships (PPPs), pension funds are expected to be among the partners they will likely look to as sources of capital for long-term infrastructure development.
That point was made by investors, financiers and experts speaking on a panel at the third annual CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Infrastructure Conference last week in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The panelists noted that pension funds are increasingly seeking investments in the region, given that the majority of funds invested in infrastructure development is currently being channeled to Australia and Europe, where there are large projects which investors consider worthy of the time and ancillary costs involved in getting major projects implemented. It was also noted that investors are looking for at least 20 percent return on equity.
That number - 20 percent - was of great interest to both government and commercial observers, who perhaps might have thought that expectations for returns on equity might be different.
Rajeev Gopaul, IFC representative for Jamaica, argued that "predatory and legal issues" can also be a challenge for Caribbean projects. He said, "it becomes more complex when international laws are applicable due to the composition of the investor and they prefer to price in international currencies as opposed to regional currencies that may be prone to exchange fluctuations".
In this regard, swap protection also becomes essential to protect against the risk of foreign exchange fluctuations.
It was noted that, in the region, large projects are still being undertaken for the most part by overseas contractors who work with locals to implement them. Such projects can have very "aggressive returns" the panel concluded.
The panel was on the topic "Caribbean Infrastructure as an Asset Class: International and regional investors' perspectives". Speakers included Raymond Campbell, partner, KPMG Advisory; Andrew Lee, managing director and head of private placements, CIBC World Markets; Lenny Mazlish, Cigna Investment Management; Douglas Hewson, partner, Portland Private Equity; and David Clee, managing director of corporate credit and structured finance, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank.

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Davis says cash-strapped govt committed to PPPs

June 21, 2015

With the government strapped for cash, the Christie administration plans to pursue public-private partnerships (PPPs) in commercially viable projects in the aviation sector to free up government resources. This comes as the Ministry of Works' focus shifts to critical infrastructure concerns, according to Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis.
Speaking with Guardian Business, Davis said that PPPs overseeing the development of airports, potable water and wastewater management are the Christie administration's chief infrastructural priorities moving forward.
"Going forward, because of the issues of the national debt of various small island states, not just The Bahamas, we are engaging in talks to have public-private partnerships in scenarios where the infrastructure project is investment-grade, where
revenue could be earned from it, like the airports, or roads where there might be a toll, for example," he said.
"From that point, that is how we are going down the list, and secondarily, infrastructure in those areas where it is intended to spur economic activities where for example we expect developments to commence," said Davis.
However, Davis said that the brunt of PPPs in the near future would focus specifically on the Christie administration's $180 million Family Island airport redevelopment initiative.
"Our focused attention is going to be placed on those infrastructure projects that require urgent attention for safety and access to communities, for example the Glass Window Bridge in North Eleuthera and Fishing Hole Road in Grand Bahama.
As for her ministry, Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin noted during her contributions to the 2015/2016 budget debate that the government was finalizing the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Odyssey Aviation for the full remediation of the runway and construction of a terminal at the damaged Staniel Cay airport.
Davis' comments coincided with a panel on aviation PPPs at the third annual CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Infrastructure Conference in Jamaica last week, at which international aviation experts stressed the economic benefits of PPPs in overhaul Caribbean air facilities.
Speaking at the conference in Montego Bay, David Pratt, managing director of major international airport investor LeighFisher, noted the significance of PPPs in redeveloping several major Caribbean airports and the corresponding economic development in the region.
Pratt highlighted the $409.5 million development of the Lynden Pindling International Airport as a boon for the local community and tourism. With completed PPPs for international airports in The Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Barbados and the Dominican Republic, Pratt said that plans are also on the way for the expansion and upgrading of airports in a number of Caribbean destinations, including the Family Islands.
However, Michelle Ottey, head of advisory services in public private partnerships for the Caribbean International Finance Corporation, stressed the importance of full government support in such endeavors.
"Governments need to commit to these major projects, or else they are doomed to fail. If governments consider the political risk too high and pull back, these types of projects will not get off the ground," she said.

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Your energy tip of the week

June 21, 2015

The rolling blackouts seem to be in full swing. Have you ever wished you had just a little solar power to get you through them? If you want that, but you don't want to kick out the major cash, can you still have light when the blackouts hit? Yes! It's as easy as using a solar mini-generator.
A generator needs no description - noisy, smelly and costly to run. A solar mini-generator takes that and flips it on its head - silent, smooth and free to operate. No more buying diesel. No more forgetting to buy it and then getting rowed. There is no noise and no smell. Solar units even pay for themselves. Since these are investments with real returns, it's no surprise that many Bahamians are starting to add these to their homes and businesses.
How would you know what size solar mini-generator you need? To decide which one is right for you, ask yourself one question: If the electricity were to shut off right now, what items would I most want to run? Go ahead - make a list. Then I'll diagnose you.
If your list includes just lights and phones, your needs can be satisfied with some of the most compact generators. Bahamians can often pick these up for $300 to $400. Did your list include a computer or a floor fan? That puts you in the medium size, about $700 to $1,500. Did your list include a fridge? If so, you need some of the larger mini-generators; typically you can find these in The Bahamas for $3,000 to $7,000. What if your list of essentials included air-conditioning, an electric oven and a pool pump? Then forget the mini-generator. You need a whole home system.
Of course, you can always size yourself up or down, depending on what you decide is essential. Whichever route you take, it's best to talk with a qualified professional for advice. Can they show you a breakdown for how you can use your generator's daily power? Ask them what's included in the generator kit and what will need to be purchased separately. Are solar panels the only way to power your generator, or can it accept other power sources as well? These questions help you make the most informed decision.
Whether you are preparing for hurricane season or for BEC, you can have light when the lights go out. You can have silent, smooth, free power. And you can even use it when the lights are on to save money! Solar mini-generators are one of the revolutionary, affordable solutions that make The Bahamas greener while putting green in your pocket.

o Joshua Key is the operations manager for SuperGreen Solutions Bahamas, located on Wulff Road next to FYP. SuperGreen Solutions offers advisors, suppliers and installers of domestic and commercial energy efficient solutions.

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Working wounded, pt. five

June 21, 2015

I thought this series was done but it seems more people are dealing with toxic work environments than I thought. I was invited to complete an encore of sorts, providing tips for working with each of the toxic leaders discussed in part three without losing your sanity or your professional reputation.

1. The bully
The bully uses fear and intimidation as a leadership style. This may translate into verbal abuse such as cursing, threats and insults. Confronting this type of leader may be risky because there is the possibility of him or her making good of their threats, especially if it will feed their ego and make an example of anyone who tries to challenge their authority. You may decide that you want to risk it to clearly state your expectations between you and how you communicate with each other. Most times, bullies are the same at all ages and will yield to people who do not fear them, because truly they are cowards.

2. The narcissist
The narcissist wants to be revered and followed unwaveringly. The ego of the narcissist is blind or uncaring to the fact that the team is following only out of compliance and not respect or support. The narcissist will use putdowns, insults and manipulation to get his or her own way without regard for anyone else's feelings. Feelings are, in fact, overrated to the narcissist. Sometimes the best way to get by with this type of leader is to play along and make them believe they are as great as they believe but it gets tiring after a while, becoming an emotional strain and potentially damaging to one's sense of self and esteem. It will take a lot of work to counteract all the things a narcissist will do and say to keep his or her subjects in line.

3. The micromanager
With the micromanager, it is a matter of trust vs. fear. Perhaps the micromanager has something to prove to her or his boss, is insecure about the super talent around her or him or doesn't trust the team to make good decisions and act without constant approval. The micromanager has to come to a level of trust to allow the people around her or him to flourish without hindrance. Success with this type of leader is to demonstrate your value and trustworthiness. Meet deadlines. Ask for more responsibility or work on special projects to build your professional reputation. Even if the micromanager doesn't let you fly, you are learning skills that can only make you better over time and perhaps use elsewhere, if it comes to that.

4. The socializer
The "friendly but not familiar" rule applies to the socializer boss who wants to hang out with you and be your friend. Short of avoiding every invitation, you will have to respectfully decline and state your views on sharing your personal time with your boss, indicating that the professional relationship is far more important to cultivate. Mind you, being able to interact with upper level management is a necessary skill that shows organizational savvy and builds management's perception of you. Sometimes it may not be a bad idea to attend happy hour every once in a while, depending on your advancement goals. Just remember the rule: friendly but not familiar.

5. The parent
I am reminded of the familiar anti-drug campaign when I think of the parent leadership style: "Just say no". Thank them respectfully for their advice but when it oversteps the bounds to meddling or forcing you to take certain actions, you may need to just decline. I have witnessed a leader who led this way, actually withhold vacation pay from employees until they returned because it was felt they would not have handled their money properly and come back broke from vacation. Not only is this way out of line on the leader's part, but this actually contravenes employment law that specifically states that vacation pay must be paid prior to the start of the first vacation day. This and any other infraction of company policy or law should be brought to the attention of human resources right away, investigated and ceased.
All in all, it can be very taxing working with toxic leaders, and employees must make decisions that best serve themselves and their careers in the long run. For those who choose to stand up for themselves or leave the department or organization, they do so weighing all the risks and consequences in the balance, knowing that even if the worst possible scenario were to happen, they would be at peace knowing they prepared for the eventuality and can walk away with their sanity, health and sense of self intact.

o Simmone L. Bowe, MSc. is a human resource and organization development specialist, speaker, trainer, author, and mentor who focuses on helping business leaders and professionals navigate the turning points of their organizations and careers to develop high performing, purpose-driven people, teams and organizations. For comments and queries, email sbowe94@gmail.com.

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Public Private Partnerships Spawn Caribbean Airport Development
Public Private Partnerships Spawn Caribbean Airport Development

June 20, 2015

Public Private Partnerships (PPP) have been instrumental in the redevelopment of several airports in the Caribbean, contributing to the economic wellbeing and development of the region...

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CIBC FirstCaribbean CEO points to public/private partnership as a catalyst for economic recovery for the region
CIBC FirstCaribbean CEO points to public/private partnership as a catalyst for economic recovery for the region

June 19, 2015

Infrastructure development and renewal in the Caribbean will be a catalyst for economic recovery and sustainable growth in the region Rik Parkhill, CEO, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank...

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CIBC FirstCaribbean positioned for growth-Rik Parkhill, CEO
CIBC FirstCaribbean positioned for growth-Rik Parkhill, CEO

June 19, 2015

CIBC First Caribbean International Bank is experiencing significant growth across the Caribbean and is working with several public and private sector entities to implement multi million dollar projects across the region...

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PM: Baha Mar impasse may mean staff can't be paid
PM: Baha Mar impasse may mean staff can't be paid

June 19, 2015

PRIME Minister Perry Christie acknowledged yesterday that the continuing impasse at Baha Mar could result in the resort eventually lacking the capacity to pay the thousands of people currently on its payroll...

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Grand Bahamian rates as Florida Super Lawyer

June 19, 2015

Roig Lawyers, a minority-owned multi-practice litigation law firm in Deerfield Beach, is dedicated to serving clients across six offices throughout Florida. Last week they announced that partner, Stephen G. Mellor, a Bahamian living in the US with his family...

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Chamber welcomes proposed minimum wage increase

June 18, 2015

Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) CEO Edison Sumner yesterday welcomed the government's proposed increase to the national private sector minimum wage as a model for private and public sector cooperation, stating that the chamber had "no difficulty" with the figure.
Speaking with Guardian Business, Sumner stated that the intended wage increase to $210 per week for private sector employees (up from $150) demonstrated the first tangible results of the National Tripartite Council, which launched in March. The council brings together representatives from the government, private sector, and national trade unions.
Sumner noted that the government proposed a minimum wage of roughly $225 in keeping with the public sector minimum wage, while the BCCEC initially proposed a weekly wage of $204. However, Sumner said that initial proposals from certain trade unionists were "out of whack" during preliminary discussions.
"We have no difficulty with the number. We suggested and agreed with the other social partners that that's the number that's comfortable for all of us and if the government's mindful to accept those recommendations, then they would have the full support of the chamber of commerce," he said.
"We are pleased with the compromise. We thought that the numbers that one of trade union bodies was suggesting, $350, was totally out of whack. There's no way that this economy and the private sector could have absorbed a $350 minimum wage, it just could not happen," he said.
Minister of Labour Shane Gibson announced the proposed increase during his contribution to the 2015/2016 budget debate earlier this week. However, Gibson did not reveal when the government would amend the Minimum Wage Act to allow the increase.
"Obviously, Mr. Speaker, it was a compromise... there are many in the private sector and in the trade union sector who would have liked more, but everybody recognizes that we are just now coming out of a recession," said Gibson.
Sumner said that the chamber consulted with small and large employers in the country proposing the $210 figure following discussions with the International Labour Organization and other international partners, which they eventually accepted. However, Sumner stressed that the next step in advancing the national labor force rested in improving worker productivity that continues to leave many employers wanting.
"We want to ensure that workers in the country are properly compensated. We want to ensure also, though, that there are skill sets and levels of productivity in the work force that will be commensurate with the level of the wage that they're going to get.
"We all want to see people earn more money but we also want to see an increase in the level of productivity coming from the work force as well, because we're losing a lot of money on the lack of productivity, not having in place all of the requisite skill sets that are needed to advance certain industries in the country, so the employers are now taking it upon themselves to ensure that their staff is properly and adequately trained and we encourage those in the civil service to do the same," Sumner said.
Looking forward, Sumner hoped that the swift results of deliberations would carry on to future tripartite council initiatives, stating that the country "did not have the luxury" of taking months upon months to resolve labor concerns.
"This shows us that once we put our minds to a place where we can collaborate together and achieve a certain objective there is nothing that can stop us. There is no reason that many of the other initiatives that are being considered now that will have private sector involvement cannot be advanced very quickly," said Sumner.

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Steering committee touts 'tremendous progress' made during NDP diagnostic phase

June 18, 2015

Top members of the National Development Plan (NDP) Steering Committee yesterday commended "tremendous progress" made during the initial diagnostic phase of the much-touted NDP ahead of a skills mission focusing on improving labor and skills at the end of July.
Dr. Nicola Virgill-Rolle, director of economic development and planning, told Guardian Business that the committee had begun the process of disseminating sector-specific reports for review and would soon ramp up industry consultations and partner with local training institutions ahead of a state of the nation report slated for release in late summer.
"We are targeting the end of July. We want to make sure that the date is validated and the report is validated. We have set up 10 industry consultation groups that need time to digest these reports and provide comments. We'll do further research to make sure that the reports are tight and though there will always be debate about them, there won't be major errors or gaps," she said.
Stubbs and Virgill-Rolle spoke during an NDP workshop entitled "Transforming Government: United in Service", framed around boosting productivity and strengthening linkages between the government and public service.
The plan is currently being funded by a $450,000 grant from the Inter-American Development (IDB). Launched in November 2014, Prime Minister Perry Christie originally hoped to complete the plan by this month. However, committee members and government officials have since stressed the need for proper deliberation with no firm completion date for the later phases of the NDP.
Virgill-Rolle stated that the IDB-funded skills mission would draw on a variety of institutions and Bahamian demographics, including the diaspora.
"As we go forward with the work and begin the consultation phase we're going to have to pull in from all of The Bahamas, including institutions. We have a number of committees that are being set up now that will draw on the expertise of everyone from the [Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute] to the National Training Institute, and certainly looking at labor and skills as a particular issue," she said.
NDP Steering Committee Chairman Felix Stubbs said that while he was very much pleased with the progress made during the diagnostic phase, the committee could not rush work to meet deadlines at the risk of compromising the NDP.
"We need to create that baseline that will tell us where the gaps are and then we'll know where we need to go to begin to start filling in those gaps and who we need to collaborate with to get the results we want.
"I'm not going to be hung up on deadlines because what we're doing here is a living document. It's going to continually change as the situation changes," he said.

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Concerns raised about FOIA funding

June 18, 2015

Members of the private sector yesterday raised concern over how the Christie administration plans to fund the potential implementation of the Freedom of Information Bill, 2015 due to the lack of provisions within the 2015/2016 budget.
Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez yesterday told Guardian Business that while there was no specific provision for the future rollout of the bill within the budget, the government was "well on the way" to meeting digitization requirements to accommodate a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
"The reality is that it's not specifically highlighted in the budget but that doesn't mean that it can't be done during this budget cycle. It means that when they are ready to roll it out we will have to make special financial provisions for it and that's done pretty much as a routine matter," Gomez said following a Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) luncheon.
BCCEC CEO Edison Sumner later told Guardian Business that the private sector remained interested knowing the source of future FOIA funding, but noted that he would not be surprised if the government sought allocations from international development multilaterals.
"We didn't see the provision in this budget, at least not clearly defined, so we're going to continue to press them to find out how they expect to fund it. It's going to be a very expensive undertaking to implement a Freedom of Information Act looking at the whole transitions and transparency in government it's going to take some time," he said.
However, Sumner seriously questioned whether The Bahamas could expect the government to enact the 2015 bill during the current political administration given the monumental tasks of implementing the act, introducing an Information Commission, modernizing the country's reporting infrastructure, and training the requisite number of information officers.
Regardless, Sumner urged the government and other stakeholders to focus now on establishing a firm foundation for a FOIA in the hopes of making it resilient to any potential change in government.
"Now we're at a point where it's come back into the public domain. The private sector's going to drive this and we're going to hold the government to account and hold their feet to the fire until this is fully enacted.
"We don't want to see this as another file sitting on the desk collecting dust... it's about holding the government to account but it's going to have some implications for the private sector as well," said Sumner.
The 2015 bill has received a mixed reception since it was unveiled last month, with many welcoming any advancement in the country's FOI legislation despite the new bill's perceived areas for improvement.
Some of the more positively received reforms to the legislation over the 2012 act include the curbing of ministerial authority to block disclosure of information and a narrowing of exemptions across multiple governmental sectors.
However, the appointment process for an independent Information Commissioner, which will no longer hold dual responsibilities as the Data Commissioner under the 2012 act, and the lingering uncertainty surrounding full whistleblower protection legislation have been causes for concern.

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Bank's PPP corporate pipeline worth 'well over 1 billion'

June 18, 2015

CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank (FCIB) has a public/private partnership (PPP) corporate pipeline worth "well over a billion dollars" in the Caribbean, according to FCIB CEO Rik Parkhill.
Parkhill addressed the matter at a press conference ahead of the 2015 CIBC FirstCaribbean Infrastructure Conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica last night. The conference is intended to unlock key principles behind what makes successful PPPs; to identify ways to increase the underlaying credit rating of these projects and to act as a catalyst for infrastructure development, among other things.
CIBC, the parent bank and main shareholder of CIBC FirstCaribbean, has developed a reputation for infrastructure lending, and this is the third FCIB infrastructure conference, the first having been held in The Bahamas.
Pressed to give details about the pipeline, Parkhill last night said the projects were across diverse economic sectors and located "all over the region". While he declined to discuss the projects in detail, or even give a country breakdown of the value of projects in the pipeline, he noted that there was significant value in the pipeline in The Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and the Dutch Caribbean.
He said Jamaica has among the largest corporate pipelines in the history of the bank.
Parkhill noted that he expects this calendar year to be an active one for PPPs. He said there are a lot of projects that had been "dusted off", and are now in active development.
"I think there is strong evidence that the Caribbean economies have bottomed and are starting to recover," Parkhill said.
Still, FCIB like other banks in the region has taken hits in the past from big deals gone bad. Does that make the bank gun-shy? Irene Markus, the bank's managing director for wholesale banking, insisted that it has not.
"We absolutely remain committed to those sectors we have traditionally banked," she said. "The bar might be a little higher."
And in an era of increasing regulation and scrutiny, FCIB Executive Director for Corporate and Investment Banking Beresford Grey cited "political risk" as the biggest challenge to PPPs, citing as examples of political risk an inability to have smooth transitions from one administration to another, or one administration refusing to honor another's deals.
Generally, the Caribbean does not suffer from such risk, Grey said, leaving the only real issue being one of transparency and process. Governments must be committed to PPPs, he said, and must have specific frameworks dedicated to PPP execution.

Parkhill out
Meanwhile, Parkhill confirmed that his time as CEO comes to an end in September. Stressing that he was not being pushed out, he noted that he had actually extended his stay long past his original contracted time.
He touted the turnaround in the bank, which he said was evidenced by the last four quarters, which were "highly profitable". The bank has "turned the corner", he said, and "stemmed the tide" on the non-performing loans (NPLs) which have been a plague on the entire regional financial system.

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