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Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday defended the large size of his newly formed Cabinet, claiming the challenges confronting the nation warrant as many hands on deck as possible.
Government yesterday announced the final Cabinet appointments of 11 ministers, pushing the number of posts in Christie's Cabinet to 21 (16 ministers and five ministers of state). Three parliamentary secretaries have also been appointed.
"Under ordinary circumstances I would have selected a smaller Cabinet but the quite extraordinary and multi-faceted challenges facing our country today have compelled me to put together a Cabinet that will enable us to tackle these challenges simultaneously on as many different fronts as possible," the prime minister said after the 11 ministers were sworn in and took their oaths of office at Government House
He added that the size of his Cabinet is approximate to the one formed by former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham at the start of his term in 2007.
However, Ingraham's Cabinet was later reduced to 17 members. Those appointed to Cabinet yesterday include familiar faces like Fred Mitchell, appointed as minister of foreign affairs and immigration;
V. Alfred Gray, appointed as minister of agriculture, marine resources and local government; Shane Gibson, appointed as minister of labor and national insurance; Glenys Hanna-Martin, appointed as minister of transport and aviation and Melanie Griffin, appointed as minister of social services.
The list also includes newcomers to Cabinet: Dr. Michael Darville as minister for Grand Bahama; Dr. Perry Gomez, minister of health; Kenred Dorsett, minister of the environment and housing; Dr. Daniel Johnson, minister of youth, sports and culture; Hope Strachan, minister of state in the ministry of transport and aviation; and Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for investments in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Of note is the appointment of Darville, who will be the first minister to head the newly created ministry for Grand Bahama. After the ceremony, Darville said he will work to bring duty free concessions to West Grand Bahama, have open and frank discussions with the Grand Bahama Port Authority and find ways to revitalize the island's economy.
The creation of a specific ministry for the economically depressed island was something the Progressive Liberal Party promised to roll out within the first 100 days of its term.
MP-elect for Bamboo Town Renward Wells, MP-elect for South Beach Cleola Hamilton and MP-elect for Exuma Anthony Moss have been appointed as parliamentary secretaries. They will serve in the Ministries of Works and Urban Development; Foreign Affairs and Immigration and Agriculture and Marine Resources respectively. The trio will be sworn in at Government House on Monday.
Christie added that the Cabinet appointments were not a five-year deal and would be subject to change later in his term. He promised to provide leadership opportunities for his party's "new generation" when he shuffles his lineup later on.
"I fully intend to make mid-term ministerial adjustments with a view to bringing into the Cabinet some of our elected members of Parliament who have not been included in the first round," he said. "By the end of our term in office the new generation of political leaders will have risen to dominance in the Cabinet."
Dr. Kendal Major, MP-elect for Garden Hills, has been appointed as the next speaker of the House and MP-elect for Nassau Village Dion Smith will serve as his deputy.
Christie said MP-elect for Mount Moriah Arnold Forbes has asked to become chairman of the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation and an ambassador with a special focus on trade and job creation.
Over the next few days, Christie is expected to announce several other appointments to government boards and agencies.
Cabinet will have its first meeting Tuesday morning.
The Honorable Perry Christie newly elected Prime Minister of the Bahamas has announced the members of his new Cabinet. The Prime Minister seems to have done a good job of selecting an impressive team of Ministers. A review by the Council of Concerned Bahamians Abroad (CBA) finds that this new Cabinet and executive branch of government in the Bahamas is competitive with the best Cabinets in the English Speaking Caribbean region. This should give Concerned Bahamians domiciled abroad (CBAs) an early sense of relief and hope that the new government is starting out on the right foot in solving the Country’s numerous problems.
Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez said yesterday that Cabinet will review suggestions made by Court of Appeal President Anita Allen urging the government to amend the law which outlines mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases.
"We will discuss it in Cabinet and give it our consideration. I can't anticipate what Cabinet will do or won't do," Gomez told The Nassau Guardian when asked if plans to amend the law were still on the government's agenda.
Gomez said he agrees with Allen's critique of the law.
"I've always taken the position [that] the mandatory minimum sentences were an attempt to encroach on the discretion of judicial institutions," he said.
"Her comments merely vindicate a position which I have held for many years.
"I think that one of our problems today has been that matters that are in the Magistrate's Court have ended elsewhere unnecessarily."
He added: "The other courts, which these matters have gone to have had to deal with matters which really ought not to be before them.
"I'm just one member of Cabinet, but my view may not be shared by others."
On Thursday, Allen indicated that many of the cases involving mandatory minimum sentences have been subject to appeals and have essentially wasted the court's time.
"Significantly, magisterial criminal appeals accounted for over 50 percent of the number of matters disposed of and well over 90 percent of those were appeals against the imposition of the mandatory minimum sentences for drug, firearm and ammunition possession," said Allen at a special sitting of the Court of Appeal to mark the new legal year.
"The sheer number of these appeals, however, places immense pressure on this court. Moreover, it is in my view an injudicious use of judicial time to have three senior justices doing what magistrates could have done if they had the discretion to impose the appropriate sentence in the first place."
Under legislation passed in 2011, people convicted of drug possession with intent to supply or illegal firearm possession face a fixed sentencing range of four to seven years.
Prior to the change in law, magistrates were able to sentence those convicted of such crimes based on their own discretion.
In May 2012, Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage said the government planned to review the mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
The Bahamas will be pursuing a Model I Intergovernmental Agreement under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Guardian Business can confirm.
After a lengthy presentation last week, Cabinet approved the Ministry of Financial Services' recommendation to negotiate with the United States for The Bahamas to enter into a Model I Intergovernmental Agreement.
Cabinet Office announced just moments ago that Prime Minister Perry Christie has advised the Governor-General to make the following cabinet appointments:
The Hon. Dr. Bernard J. Nottage - Minister of National Security & Govt Leader in the House of Assembly
The Hon. Obediah Wilchcombe - Minister of Tourism
The Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald - Minister of Education, Science & Technology
The Hon. Ryan Pinder - Minister of Financial Services
Senator the Hon. Allyson Maynard Gibson - Attorney General & Minister of Legal Affairs
Damian Gomez - Minister of State in the Ministry of Legal Affairs
The Hon. Michael Halkitis - Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance
Senator the Hon. Keith Bell - Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security
The statement further mentions that the appointments made were done so with 'critical bearing' on three of the most pressing issues currently facing The Bahamas: crime, the economy, and the need to re-vamp educational system.
Ten years after stealing scenes in Sam Boodle's The Landlord, Ward Minnis and Anthony 'Skeebo' Roberts are returning to the
Dundas stage this weekend with twice the laughs in The Cabinet, a play that has been called the biggest comedy to hit the
stage so far for 2011.
"We just got back from Freeport with the play at the Regency," says Minnis, who in addition to playing one of the lead characters,
serves as director of the comedy which took him three years to write. "We weren't exactly planning on doing the play again
so soon in Nassau, but the last time we were at the Dundas, the role that Skeebo is playing was played by someone else. Skeebo
is just so awesome and beause he is who he is, he brings so much more to the character than you can anticipate so we ended
up editing and ad-libbing because of what he bought to the role.
Skeebo has been doing this [theatre] for about as long as
I've been alive so he contributes in more ways than even he knows."
Minnis admits to being in awe of Roberts during their first time on stage together and had no problem asking him for tips
when it came to learning the art of the stage. Now, he says, he he is humbled that Roberts actually agreed to be a part of
"It's amazing when someone you admire suddenly is taking direction from you and acting out what you wrote," says Minnis.
"Some actors arrive and then forget that this is a small but growing community and humility is key to success. Skeebo has
been all over the Caribbean, North America and the UK in films, commericals and on the stage. Yet he still has time to work
with little old me. When those we admire give us up-and-comers a chance it really motivates us."
Minnis added that he has also been motivated by several politicians and campaign workers who have seen the play who told him
that its great to sit back and laugh while seeing people they know indirectly potrayed in the characters.
"None of the parties or politicians are real in the play," laughs Minnis.
"However, if you see someone you voted for, voted
against, on the campaign trail or in the House of Parliament in one of our characters, it might be coincidental and in your
imagination. However, yes, we do draw inspiration from real life but we have to take it up a notch. But if it weren't for
the voters who are also members of our audience, we would not have been able to continue doing what we are doing or entertaining
requests to consider taking the play to other islands which is something we are optimistic about."
Tickets for The Cabinet are currently on sale at Galleria Cinemas. The play runs from June 24 to June 25.
The Cabinet Office staff on Monday, May 31, presented a cheque to the Bahamas Red Cross to assist with the rebuilding of Haiti following the January earthquake. Mrs. Anita Bernard, Secretary to the Cabinet made the presentation to Mrs. Carolyn Turnquest, Director General of the Bahamas Red Cross
Nassau, The Bahamas... Ten years after stealing scenes in Sam Boodle's The Landlord, Ward Minnis and Anthony 'Skeebo' Roberts are returning to the Dundas stage this weekend with twice the laughs in The Cabinet, a play that has been called the biggest comedy to hit the stage so far for 2011.
"We just got back from Freeport with the play at the Regency," says Minnis
who in addition to playing one of the lead characters serves as director of comedy which took him three years to write. "We weren't exactly planning on doing the play again so soon in Nassau, but the last time we were at the Dundas, the role that Skeebo is playing was played by someone else. Skeebo is just so awesome and because...
A proposal for the government to implement a "transparent, rules-based, economic permanent residency program" is currently before Cabinet for consideration for approval, but no alterations concerning the terms of eligibility for citizenship are at issue, the minister of financial services has disclosed.
Ryan Pinder said the intention of the program would be to provide a framework to offer greater certainty for those seeking permanent residency in The Bahamas, in conjunction with creating the potential for a permanent resident to work in his or her own business.
"(Having a) transparent and rules-based (framework) is very important to financial institutions when they go to their clients. You can't go and say, 'Yeah, come to The Bahamas, we might be able to get you residency because we might be able to do so'. No, you say, 'Come to The Bahamas because you meet (criteria) X, Y, Z, A, B, C, and one, two and three, and therefore you fit into the framework'. I think that's very important," Pinder told Guardian Business.
Pinder confirmed that the current proposal under consideration would not make any changes to who can gain citizenship in The Bahamas, or alter the process or terms under which this can happen. Presently, a permanent resident can apply for citizenship after seven years of living in The Bahamas and if he or she has lived continuously in this country for the final year prior to applying.
"There's nothing that is proposed that would change the law. I don't envisage that to be part of the package," said the minister of a citizenship guarantee.
Meanwhile, permanent residence is only a possibility via investment to those individuals or investors who purchase a residence costing $1.5 million or more. The policy allows for those individuals to get a "speedy consideration" of their applications, but guarantees nothing.
Pinder also revealed that the government is considering implementing a tax certificate program that would provide people with evidence of residency for tax purposes in The Bahamas.
"We don't have any kind of regime to show you are a tax resident in The Bahamas, so we're looking to try to develop that kind of regime as well. In this global environment, tax planning is important and so having certainty around tax planning is important," he added.
The development fits with earlier reports by Guardian Business indicating that the government has been in discussions with the private sector, including the financial services industry, about making changes to present immigration laws to create a more facilitative environment to attract high-net-worth investors to The Bahamas.
In mid-May, attorney and advisor to the Christie administration, Sean McWeeney, advocated at an international financial services conference in Nassau for some form of investor citizenship program for The Bahamas to encourage investment and competitiveness. His suggestion received widespread support in the private sector, with many pointing to how similar programs have been implemented elsewhere to stimulate investment.
Pinder, who was responding to a question from Guardian Business on where the government stands with respect to this suggestion from McWeeney, indicated that the proposal on the table would not go as far as providing for investors to have a guarantee of citizenship, as some have called for, but would create new and more appealing conditions.
"The intention of residency reform in the country is to cause for a transparent and rules-based system to preserve what we have with respect to our economic permanent residency, which is the purchase of a home, but also to encourage businesses to come here, whether they be asset managers, investment advisory firms or other types of consultancy firms that are on the global services level.
"They have to come with the confidence that they are coming to a country where they can live and operate in a definitive point of view, so we're also trying to put a transparent rules-based regime around permanent residency with the right to work in your own businesses and to attract businesses and those people who are looking for new homes to do business in The Bahamas. Those are two very important components of it."
Likely to be positive news to many in the sector, it would also appear to fall short in its reach of what some, such as Butterfield Bank Chairman and founder of the Bahamas Financial Services Board, Ian Fair, had proposed. Fair had suggested that the government should go further and create the conditions for investors to get guarantees of citizenship after a specified - and shorter - number of years, based on certain conditions.
Anything less, Fair suggested, may not be the "economic game changer" that a more "half-half" program that requires a less significant overhaul of current policies would be.
McWeeney, on his part, had urged the government to allow for the possibility of investor citizenship, but said that such a program should not follow the model established by St. Kitts and Nevis. The program in that country has what are widely acknowledged to be among the least onerous requirements. That country has recently been forced to propose changes to its investor citizenship program after coming under criticism from the United States government.