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Three hundred and twenty-eight teachers' aides were welcomed into the government's Teachers' Aides Job and Skills Training Initiative that was launched yesterday.
The aides will be placed at various schools, libraries and departments within the Ministry of Education.
The launch event, held at the British Colonial Hilton, was attended by scores of teachers from across New Providence as well as Minister of Education Desmond Banister, Director of Education Lionel Sands and Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.
Ingraham said he was pleased with the response to the program, adding that many Bahamians place their children in private schools because of the smaller class sizes and the presence of teachers' aides.
"We are seeking to develop in the public education system, a cadre of teachers aides... to add quality to our classroom experience," he said.
Ingraham also noted that although the government's expenditure on education is large, it is not targeted.
"One of the things we will seek to do [in the] next budget period is to target expenditure in education more, so that [schools] will have more teachers' aides," Ingraham said.
He continued, "We still have far too many students coming out of our primary schools, entering our junior schools who cannot read or write.
"We expect that this cadre of teachers' aides we will put in place will assist in minimizing and reducing the number of such students (those who cannot read or write) who leave the primary school system in The Bahamas."
Ingraham said there will be opportunities for some of the trainees to secure permanent employment as a teachers' aide - if their performance is up to standard.
The aides were placed in the system as a part of the government's $25 million National Job Readiness and Training Initiative.
Of the total, 328, 175 went to New Providence, 13 to Eleuthera, 73 to East and West Grand Bahama, 37 to Abaco, 17 to North and Central Andros and 13 to Exuma.
Outstanding philanthropist and humanitarian Sir Durward Knowles donated a number of top quality shirts to fire victims in Abaco recently. Sir Durward, who was the recipient of the shirts from Family Island Regatta Commodore Danny Strachan, gave the shirts to his daughter Charlotte who is helping the fire victims in Abaco.
Strachan, who sells the shirts during the annual Family Island regatta, had an abundance of shirts left over from the recent national regatta in George Town, Exuma, and offered them to Sir Durward. According to Strachan, Sir Durward normally can find something to do with them and this year he knew that his daughter Charlotte was helping the victims of the recent fire in Abaco.
"We are normally receiving during our annual family island regatta and Sir Durward has always helped us," said Commodore Strachan. "This year we decided to give him all of the excess shirts that didn't sell because we know he always have some cause that he's helping. It just so happens that his daughter Charlotte is assisting the victims of the recent fire on the island, so this came in perfect time."
Sir Durward's daughter Charlotte Knowles is assisting some of the victims of the fire through one of their businesses on the island, so when she informed her father of their need, Sir Durward decided to give the shirts to her to distribute to the victims.
This year, Sir Durward who is considered one of The Bahamas' most outstanding philanthropists and humanitarians, is celebrating 50 years of winning the first ever Olympic gold medal for the country. That gold medal was won in the star class in sailing at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
A number of events are planned by the government and the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) for this year. The plans culminate with a gala banquet and tribute on October 23. The Bahamas Independence celebrations will be the start of some of the events planned.
Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Charles Maynard spent the final hours of life knocking on doors in North Abaco and discussing his party's by-election campaign, according to the last person to see him alive.
FNM Secretary General Michael Foulkes spoke publicly yesterday for the first time on what transpired in the early morning hours of August 14.
"He was doing fine... he and I had a conversation and there was no expression of any pain or any concern or anything," Foulkes told The Nassau Guardian.
"That's why there was so much disbelief and that's why I was so shocked because Charlie and I had a very lively and jovial conversation just before that, before he went on the phone and that's why I couldn't believe it."
Maynard, 42, collapsed on the side of the road, moments after speaking on the phone with his wife, Zelena, who told The Guardian last week he talked about taking his family on vacation after the campaign, and asked about preparations for his children's return to school.
Maynard's family said an autopsy showed he had an enlarged heart and died of a massive heart attack.
He was pronounced dead at 1:30 a.m., according to the FNM.
Foulkes said that when Maynard collapsed he (Foulkes) called FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis who was also on the island at the time.
"I called him and he called the authorities and he walked me through some things, but the efforts were not successful," he said.
Foulkes said all the while he couldn't believe what was happening.
"Charlie and I had a political discussion; we had finished the discussion and then he went on the phone with his wife and after that he said that he needed to relieve himself and I was driving the vehicle," Foulkes said.
"I pulled on the side of the road and he went outside and relieved himself and as he was doing it he collapsed.
"I couldn't believe my eyes frankly -- I just couldn't believe it. It was shocking."
The FNM held a memorial service for Maynard at its headquarters on Mackey Street yesterday.
Foulkes, who said he had developed a special bond with Maynard in the four weeks before his death, delivered the scripture reading.
"Charlie and I in a way, we had formed a special bond and at one point he told me, 'You know Michael, I think we're going places me and you'," he said.
"That's how the relationship became."
Foulkes said that in the days after Maynard's death, he kept to himself.
"I didn't want to talk about it much frankly because I had to internalize things myself and work with it before I started saying things to other people because it was rough," he said.
Foulkes said he would remember his friend fondly.
"Charlie was loved by everybody, he got along with people very well and he achieved what he could and he moved on," he said.
"I have nothing but fond memories of Charlie. I think I am fortunate to have gotten to know him over the last four weeks the way I have and that's special to me."
Maynard was the co-ordinator for the FNM's North Abaco by-election campaign.
He was elected chairman of the party in May after he lost his Golden Isles seat in the general election, and his party was voted out of office.
There will be an official funeral for Maynard at Christ Church Cathedral at 11 a.m. tomorrow.
His body will lie in state at the House of Assembly today until the funeral.
The high school test event for the world relays is now just a few hours away, and the athletes expected to be involved have been training daily in order to get ready to represent their schools at the event. The high school relays will serve as the qualifying event for the finals, entitled "One Island, One Lane", which will be run on May 24 and 25 at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, about two hours before the inaugural International Association of Athletics Federations' (IAAF) World Relay Championships.
High schools from around the island have compiled their best athletes to compete at the qualifying event. Just the opportunity to represent New Providence at the IAAF World Relays Bahamas 2014 is an opportunity of a lifetime.
To celebrate the opportunity, there will be a motorcade and pep rally this evening. The motorcade will begin at 4 p.m., and the pep rally begins at 6:30 p.m.
When the idea of the high school relays was first announced, it did not receive positive feedback, but as time has grown closer to the date, more and more schools have come forward to become a part of the historic event. Not only is the chance of competing in front of such a large audience a good opportunity for the athletes, but it will serve as a chance for smaller schools to make a name for themselves. More established schools will be able to showcase their quality athletes.
The high school test event will start on Friday and will run through Saturday.
The top teams from that event will be invited to compete during the World Relays. The high school relay runners will compete in the 4x100 meters (m) and the 4x400m and the sprint medleys.
The 'One Island, One Lane' event will allow athletes to unite with teammates from their respective islands to compete for the crown of top team in The Bahamas. The participating islands will be New Providence, Grand Bahama, Bimini, Abaco, Andros and the Berry Islands, Long Island, Cat Island, San Salvador, Mayaguana, Inagua, Acklins and Crooked Island.
The tourism sector in Abaco is showing signs of a turnaround, according to that island's tourism office manager, but at least one businessperson is saying service levels have fallen badly and threaten the industry's future.
The turnaround in the industry can be seen in areas like the return of that island's fishing tournaments, according to the Ministry of Tourism's Abaco Manager Wynsome Ferguson. Having dwindled from the regular thirteen to about five tournaments last year, she said a dozen are on the calendar again for this year.
"Our economy is turning around, though it is not where it used to be, it's better," Ferguson told Guardian Business on Monday. The numbers of visitors to the tournaments are still a lot lower than usual, she said, but she welcomed the return of the tournaments as an attraction for guests and a generator of business and employment opportunities for locals. Hoteliers are seeing bookings improve too, though they are not made as far in advance as they were in better times, she said.
But at least one businessperson is questioning how ready the Abaco community is for the guests it is and potentially will be receiving. Daphne de Gregory, sales and marketing manger at Abaco Neem, told this newspaper yesterday that she's witnessing attitudes deteriorate and service levels diminish as prices for the Abaco experience are on the rise.
"We are over-pricing ourselves and not supporting the price with the service," de Gregory said. "People don't mind paying the price if they get impeccable service and quality for their money."
The degradation is prevalent in many businesses directly involved in the tourism industry as well as others, de Gregory said, basing her assessment on both personal experience and observation.
She often treats herself as a tourist, de Gregory said, and when she goes to places she expects tourists are getting the same level of service she does. She also draws on visitor comments from their visits to the Abaco Neem location. Often, she says she gets the subtle reminder of the state of services from customer comments that suggest their good experience is novel, and unlike the service they typically receive elsewhere.
"We give a 'wow' experience, but if everyone was giving a 'wow' experience, it wouldn't be so necessary to say it," de Gregory explained.
It may be good news for Abaco Neem, but not for Abaco or The Bahamas. De Gregory says the managers of businesses are responsible for the service standards at their firms. While many may believe they are up to scratch in terms of service, she suggested they expose themselves to other businesses to better understand the service potential latent in their staff, and how guests are being serviced at other business places.
"Business houses may feel they are giving good service, but they need to visit other businesses and see what they are doing. You can't sit in your business and know what your guests are receiving [elsewhere].
"We have to be each other's keepers, so to speak."
Business managers should not be so focused on the bottom line that they overlook other critical factors, like the customer experience, according to de Gregory. Premium service needs to be extended to justify premium prices.
According to de Gregory, traditional Bahamian hospitality is becoming a thing of the past, a trend she said must be reversed. Locals and tourists alike should be getting the basic courtesies that once were synonymous with Bahamians, she said.
"We cannot afford to be indifferent to anyone," de Gregory said. "The competition is too great out there. We have to have service, a positive attitude, Bahamian hospitality and then the sun, sand and sea will seal it for us.
"We need to upgrade our 'wow' experience in the country."
There are a handful of businesses that de Gregory said are really doing a good job on the service front in her estimation.
The marketer also said Marsh Harbor needed to 'spruce up' its buildings and environment. She said she is hearing from tourists that they feel Marsh Harbor was not that attractive, and the cays are where the 'beauty' is. She said that this situation was improving, however.
De Gregory said business owners need to see the value in improving their businesses' appearance, as it brings benefits to the way potential customers view the business and also to the morale of the staff who will take care of the businesses' guests.
Following a year of "highs and lows", BISX-listed Bahamas Waste has revealed that it suffered a slight decline in net income in 2013, with the figure down 9.69 percent over 2012. Net income attributable to ordinary shareholders fell by 35 percent, year-over-year.
Despite the decline, Managing Director Francisco de Cardenas told shareholders in the company's annual report for 2013 that the year was ultimately one which left the company feeling positive about its results and looking forward to a successful 2014.
Chief Financial Officer Disa Campbell told Guardian Business the results were "pretty much what we anticipated", although the year had "its share of challenges".
In the annual report, De Cardenas noted that 2013 was a year when Bahamas Waste increased the total number of residential homes it services to just over 13,000 homes, but also one in which it was forced to end its Abaco waste collection services after 10 years.
He told Guardian Business of the Abaco service, "We gave it a good try, but it just wasn't viable."
The managing director said that the company stands "ready and willing" to provide the services that the government and the public may require in terms of waste collection and handling.
Meanwhile, on the recycling front, the company has struggled, having yet to meet its goals in this area.
De Cardenas said he hopes that more companies will realize the benefits of recycling and its importance to the environment, and that this will spur greater take-up of the company's offerings in the area of recycling.
Of recycling, Campbell added in an interview, "The market is tough. We began the year very optimistic about recycling the cardboard exports; we had a shipment in January and February, and we were all set to have another in March, and it just came to a standstill. So the international markets appear to be very tight.
"The participation and the excitement in the community is also not there to the extent we would like it to be. I think that may be the case until we get mandatory recycling, that would help, but I think we may be a long way from that."
Campbell said that the company is "exploring" plastics recycling, but this is more complex than cardboard recycling.
Overall, current assets, which grew to $3.696 million, outweighed current liabilities, at $401,763, in 2013. Cash on hand fell to $393,562, from $515,258 in 2012.
According to the company's annual report, operating expenses rose slightly to $2.429 million from $2.359 million.
Accounts receivable increased quite significantly, by 29 percent, up to $2,464,790 from $1,907,201. This included $35,235 from a related party, and $2.77 million in trade receivables.
However, Campbell said that the outcome in the area of accounts receivable was very much a matter of timing.
"When we issue our first quarter results you'll see a significant decrease of probably another 10 or 15 percent in that, and a big increase in our cash. We had more business in 2013 as a result of new contracts. There was a lot of activity at Baha Mar and the residential side of things, so there was more business, and accounts receivable at year end would've been bigger.
"I think we had a small increase in bad debt from one year to the next. I don't know if we'll see a big shift in that because of VAT, since if it works as it is anticipated and people take advantage of registering, they can offset VAT paid (on inputs such as waste collection services)."
Those who want to understand the full scope of Hubert Ingraham's vision of a modern Bahamas, must look not only at what is happening in New Providence but also beyond. A good place to start is Abaco, the present-day, and circa 1947 to approximately 1964, the early years of the future Bahamian prime minister.
During his nearly 35 years as an MP, the member for North Abaco has had a singular vision for the development of all of Abaco. It is a uniquely Bahamian vision moulded by the geography of the largest archipelago in the Caribbean, with territory stretching approximately the same distance as from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago.
Among Mr. Ingraham's signature accomplishments is his transformation of the historic challenge of developing the far-flung Bahamas archipelago with its complex of developmental challenges, into a strategic strength. In so doing, he is making The Bahamas a model for small-island state development.
To do so, he realized that he had to act on multiple fronts, with limited resources, prioritizing initiatives and capital projects while leveraging the strategic assets of our history, geography and fiscal capacity to diversify the economy and provide greater long-term sustainability and social protections in a modern liberal state.
In this ambition, Abaco has been a grand experiment in small-island development. It has been a work in progress for many years, now reaching critical mass.
The prime minister's vision has its roots in his Abaco boyhood, which he has helped to transform from the Abaco of his youth. What he has done in the third largest island in the archipelago is a part of his long-term strategic plan for developing all of the major islands in our chain.
He has sought to ensure that each major island group, inclusive of various cays, has the critical infrastructure to become platforms for sustained development and a diversity of industries. Added to this vision was the introduction of local government so that Family Island residents have more say in running their own affairs and increased participation in decision-making on various local matters.
Mr. Ingraham's model of integral development includes public investment in power generation, water, roads, docks, ports, hospitals and clinics, schools et al., which will help to sustain population growth by attracting domestic as well as foreign direct investment and enticing new residents including Bahamian and non-Bahamian second home owners.
Those in Nassau who have enjoyed cable television and internet service since the inception of Cable Bahamas do not truly appreciate what cable service, which Mr. Ingraham's government introduced, means to Family Islanders.
Today, the owners of a bone-fishing lodge or charter boat service in Acklins or Andros may now advertise and have guests book online enabling them to better sustain their small businesses. They understand Mr. Ingraham's vision better than the critic pontificating on the prime minister's supposed "lack of vision" from the ease of both an arm chair and ready access to the internet.
The observation of former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur after visiting Abaco is instructive. Mr. Arthur, who knows well the challenge of developing a single island state, was impressed by the scale of development in Abaco alone.
Within two years of Mr. Ingraham becoming Prime Minister, Cooper's Town had a major clinic. The pace of development in Abaco has accelerated ever since, continuing to gather pace with an impressive array of public investments similar to the infrastructural works in New Providence.
Mr. Ingraham's delight in the Family Islands, and his enthusiasm for fishing, have made him an ardent environmentalist. In just 10 years he doubled the size of the national park system. He appreciates the need to balance development and conservation, one of several reasons he was appalled by the Great Mayaguana Land Giveaway by the former government.
Hubert Ingraham is a pragmatist, technocratic, not given to rhetorical flights of fancy. This has been a strength, as he has been typically careful to ensure that his rhetoric does not outstrip his ability to deliver on his promises.
U.S. President Richard Nixon famously observed that politicians campaign in poetry, but must govern in prose. The problem with one former Prime Minister is that he campaigns and governs in rhetorical flourishes rarely getting down to the prose and hard business of government. The difference between prose and poetry eludes another wannabe prime minister.
The downside for Mr. Ingraham is that more technocratic prose often lacks poetic flourish. This is why some suggest that he lacks vision as they prefer the frenzied rhetoric of a church revival. But those who mistake performance art for substantive vision in both religion and politics typically fail to appreciate the breadth of the Prime Minister's vision.
It is not only those who desire fanciful and syrupy rhetoric who fail to appreciate the scope of the Prime Minister's ambition to modernize The Bahamas.
There are also the inveterate Ingraham-haters with personal grudges who cannot separate their personal feelings from the Prime Minister's public performance, and political opponents who have a reason for their denials of his accomplishments. Then there are the intellectually slothful who revel in a "pox on both houses" mentality with regards to political analysis.
As the College of The Bahamas moves to university status, it may bolster its research efforts with more in-depth political analysis. One project may be an analysis of the Ingraham legacy. As Mr. Ingraham will leave a wide body of documents, public statements and accomplishments, he will prove a fascinating study in political leadership in The Bahamas in the closing decades of the 20th century and the early decades of the 21st.
One may disagree with Mr. Ingraham's style of governance and/or his positions on various issues. But to deny that he has a vision is akin to those conspiracy theorists and loons who still believe that Barack Obama is not an American citizen. Some will never be convinced despite the overwhelming evidence staring them in the face.
Policy changes at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation have enabled BEC to reduce customers' bills, Executive Chairman Leslie Miller said yesterday.
During a press conference at BEC's headquarters, Miller said the corporation was able to cut overtime pay last year by 35 percent or $4.2 million, over the year before.
He said BEC has cut overtime pay by a further $2.2 million for the year so far, and projects it will reduce overtime pay in the next quarter by a "substantial margin".
Miller said "double-dipping" -- the practice of employees receiving 100 percent of their salaries and national insurance pay when sick -- has been discontinued.
As a result, he said, the corporation will save $1.8 million this year.
He said those savings resulted in significantly reduced maintenance and operational costs.
"Your maintenance and operational costs, we have decreased those by 24 percent and you have now seen a reduction in your fuel surcharge of 24 percent for 2014 versus 2013," Miller said.
"We are getting there, but we have a long way to go because there is still a lot of wastage in BEC that we need to deal with."
Miller said limiting overtime pay of employees on the Family Islands, namely in Abaco, Eleuthera and Bimini, remains a challenge.
"But we are doing our best," he said.
"We just ask the public that you work with us, bear with us a little longer, and we are going to do the best we can."
Miller also announced that the corporation's electricity assistance program, which was scheduled to end this month after a previous extension, could continue indefinitely.
"The minister has told us he wants every light on in this country, the Honorable Philip Brave Davis," he said.
"And we have done everything possible to do so even when management raises hell and says, 'Listen we are not getting in enough funds to enable us to pay our bills.
"And we still say, if the man pays 20 percent of his bill turn him on."
According to Miller, there are around 4,700 residential customers without power.
Asked when the program will be discontinued, Miller said, "I guess until we have all 5,000 of them on, so as long as it takes."
He was unable to say how many people signed onto the program since it was implemented June 2013.
At the time, Miller estimated there were around 7,000 delinquent residential customers without power.
Abaco, Bahamas - On Saturday 20th April 2013 around 3:24am officers of the Marsh Harbour Police Station
reported that while in the area of Forest Avenue in a marked police vehicle, they attempted
to stop a white Nissan Sentra who failed to stop when beckoned to do so by the officers.
The occupants attempted to elude the officers who gave chase however the vehicle came
to a stop of Grace Avenue area and three dark males clad in dark clothing exited the
vehicle on foot making good their escape. Officers upon searching the vehicle discovered a
black unlicensed 12 gauge pump action shotgun...
Basketball action in the country is about to heat up even more, with the start of the nation's most prestigious local basketball event.
The Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) will host its Bernard 'Bunny' Laverity National Round-Robin Tournament, May 1-3, at the A.F. Adderley Gymnasium.
A round-robin tournament is a competition in which each contestant meets all other contestants at least once. The format is very fan-friendly, because most feel it's the only kind of tournament where the best team really does win, whereas in other tournaments, teams may escape playing a top team due to the allocated pools and divisions.
Players from all over the country are expected to travel to New Providence with hopes of leaving as the basketball champions of The Bahamas.
The tournament was named after long-time Grand Bahama basketball legend Laverity, who was voted into the Grand Bahama Sports Hall of Fame last year.
This year's version of the tournament will feature a junior or a 'B' division, as well as a women's division.
Eugene Horton, public relations officer of the BBF, has indicated that teams as well as a huge fan support is expected to descend upon New Providence from the out islands with one objective, to prove that the Family Islands have the best basketball players in The Bahamas.
Horton revealed that teams are expected from Grand Bahama, North and South Andros, Abaco, Eleuthera/Harbour Island and Bimini.
Each division is expected to be highly competitive, according to Horton. "Fans will be entertained by not only the 'big boys' in the 'A' division, but competition is expected to be intense in the 'B' and women's divisions as well."
This year, the tournament will have two additional features to go along with all of the festivities on the court. There will be an all-day steak-out and beer fest held on the Tom 'The Bird' Grant Park, which is adjacent to the A.F. Adderley Gymnasium. Tickets for the steak-out can be purchased from any BBF official. Also, the public will get the first glimpse of the list of names nominated as the 'Greatest Bahamian Basketball Legends'.
The federation had the difficult task of comparing and evaluating players from each generation, and deciding who was worthy to be placed on the list. It is expected to create a lot of buzz amongst all in attendance, and spark debates of who should and should not be on the list.
The Commonwealth Bank Giants defeated last year's round-robin champions, the MailBoat Cybots, in this year's New Providence Basketball Association (NPBA) finals and will represent New Providence in the 2014 BBF Round-Robin Tournament. This means that regardless of the outcome, there will be a new champion crowned in the 'A' division.