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News Article

August 19, 2014
Red-hot cause

From 1985, the year the first clinical case of AIDS was identified in The Bahamas, up to December 31, 2012, The Bahamas has had a cumulative total of 12,712 reported HIV infections; 8,186 of those infected persons are believed to have been living with the illness at the end of 2012, according to the UN AIDS Global AIDS Response Progress Report Country Report at March 31, 2014, prepared by the Ministry of Health and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).While funding for national HIV/AIDS initiatives comes primarily from the government, support for specific initiatives comes from a variety of partners, one of which is the AIDS Foundation of The Bahamas. It is this organization that is gearing up to host the return of the glamorous charity fashion show and cocktail reception known as The Red Dress Soiree, a fundraiser to support the outreach program for adolescents infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. It's a program that provides a safe and nurturing environment where youths receive assistance through three components -- academics, psychosocial intervention and medical treatment.Through its outreach program the AIDS Foundation of The Bahamas provides tutors to help the students with homework assignments and gives them access to computers for schoolwork research; a social worker and case aide also support the teenagers with everything from getting to the clinic, to picking up report cards, to counseling and job preparation skills. The program also works closely with the National HIV/AIDS Program, which refers the participants to the AIDS Foundation program. The beneficiaries are also able to receive a hot meal five times per week.The Red Dress Soiree, which honors successful women who are at the top of their careers and who have impacted Bahamian society in positive ways, will pair 14 women with Bahamian designers to create a red dress or red ensemble that will be showcased by the women on Saturday, September 20 in the ballroom at the British Colonial Hilton at 6:30 p.m. One hundred percent of proceeds raised from the Red Dress Soiree, including funds from ticket sales pegged at $100 as well as the silent auction, will go toward the work of the Bahamas AIDS Foundation to benefit the outreach program.The Red Dress Soiree was staged in 2012 for the first time and organized by Tyrina Neely. It was so successful that the foundation wanted to do it again in 2013, but Neely was unable to. Bahamas AIDS Foundation President Lady Camille Barnett asked Neely if the AIDS Foundation could take over the event. Neely agreed, promising to help when she could."What I love about the Red Dress Soiree is that it's not only a fundraiser, but we're recognizing women in the community who are successful in whatever they're doing and some of the women are humanitarians. We're also recognizing Bahamian designers and highlighting the incredible creativity of our Bahamian designers," said Barnett.The women and designersThe women committed to walking the catwalk for charity this year include Lady Joan Foulkes, Dr. Nicolette Bethel, Alexandra Maillis-Lynch, Inga Bowleg, Pat Walters, Dr. Tracey Halkitis, Karen Carey, Eldece Clarke, Lisa Sawyer-McCartney, Candia Dames, Antoinette Russell, Patrice Ellis, Amanda Lindroth and Marisa Mason-Smith.Participating designers include Brynda Knowles, Jeff St. John, Fenna Mae Lopez, Sabrina Francis, Judy Deleveaux, Theodore Ellyett, Phylicia Ellis, David Rolle, Apryl Burrows, Indira Moss, Kathy Pinder, Patrice Lockhart, Javotte Bethel and Rachel Garcia.In selecting who would take to the catwalk, Barnett said the foundation chose categories and named four people in each category; a committee then made the final selection. Proceeds from the silent auction from the first Red Dress Soiree went to the foundation. Approximately $20,000 was raised. Barnett is hoping to raise at least $20,000 this year. She said it costs approximately $2,000 per person per year in the AIDS Foundation's program. Raising $20,000 would cover the costs for 10 individuals. The Bahamas AIDS Foundation currently serves 80 kids and teenagers.The Bahamas AIDS Foundation's outreach program, which is in its fifth year, was started after members became aware of HIV positive youths who weren't taking their medications. As a result, the children were getting sick and were constantly in and out of hospital. After a few teenagers died, she said they had to do something. The AIDS Foundation decided on an afterschool academic program to engage with the young people. It was their hope that once the children and teenagers became familiar with the afterschool program, they would then try to tackle some of the psychosocial issues concerning taking their medication."We started out with one person and we actually have 80 young people registered in the program," said Barnett. "Not all of our kids come to the afterschool program. On any given day we may have anywhere from 19 to 23 young people actually coming for the afterschool segment of it. Some of the kids, the social worker works with them outside of the program for whatever reason they don't want to come. Or maybe some of them are out of school, but we still work with them and try to help them," she said.The AIDS Foundation's social worker also goes out to clinics whenever they're held to offer support to the young people and invite them to be a part of the outreach program.In 2012, the number of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS was 383. Of those cases, 293 were newly reported HIV infections, including persons newly diagnosed with AIDS at the time of HIV diagnosis or within the same year as the HIV diagnosis. Over half of the new infections reported in 2012 were among males. Persons aged 15 to 24 accounted for 17 percent of newly reported infections, while persons aged 25 to 44 years made up 50 percent of cases. Ninety-one percent of persons diagnosed in 2012 resided in New Providence, five percent in Grand Bahama and one percent in Eleuthera. Forty-nine percent of newly diagnosed infections in 2012 were among males, while females accounted for 51 percent of cases."With the adolescent program, it's not only the kids who are infected, but those who are affected as well, because when you're in a household and someone is HIV positive, it affects everybody in that household, even if it's the mother, because she may be hospitalized frequently. Then there's this big secret because we don't want anybody outside of our family, even some members of the family, you don't want to know that you're HIV positive. We felt it was important to include those kids who are affected as well in our program, especially if they're looking after that person -- if it's their mom, they're missing days of school, so they are placed at a disadvantage as well," said Barnett.Education is keyThe AIDS Foundation also assists with education. Even though the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS is not as bad as it was a decade ago, Barnett said it's still there, and education about how HIV/AIDS can and cannot be contracted has to be continuous. According to Barnett, even with the efforts to make education and information available to the public, there are still too many women who do not seek prenatal care until it's too late. She also said there are people in denial who do not take their medication or do not take [the medication] as they should, daily."They say on average three percent of the population is HIV/AIDS positive, and that's a whole lot of people -- and some persons don't even know that they're HIV positive because they don't have any symptoms as they're not sick, they're carriers, and don't know that they're passing it onto someone else," she said.When the Bahamas AIDS Foundation started, its goal was to cater to teenagers from 13 to 18. Today, Barnett has found that the organization is catering to children as young as eight and as old as 23."We're seeing actually a shift in our program from kids who are in school to having more and more kids who are out of school and looking for work. So we're trying to provide them with job skills and job training to help them find jobs," she said.It is funds raised from events like The Red Dress Soiree that go toward helping the foundation do its work; Barnett and the foundation's team are excited to stage the second soiree and raise as much as they can, while at the same time honoring Bahamian women and fashion designers."There are so many fabulous women in our society doing fabulous things, and we just need to recognize them," she said. A new component to the Red Dress Soiree will be the creation of a 2015 calendar, which will be shot by photographer Scharad Lightbourne, featuring the women in red along with their designers."I am so excited about the calendar [which] was the brainchild of Brynda Knowles," said Barnett. "Tyrina had also thought about it but didn't do it in 2012, and when we put the idea to Scharad, he was excited. The women and their designers will be photographed at Sapodilla Estates. Barnett is hoping the calendars will be ready by the AIDS Foundation Ball in November.The Bahamas AIDS Foundation is a non-profit, non-government organization dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas. Its mission is to support the fight against HIV/AIDS in the community; provide education and awareness; assist in the prevention, treatment and cure and provide support for people living with HIV/AIDS.The Bahamas AIDS Foundation was established in 1992 by the Zonta Club of Nassau. The club's members were approached by Dr. Perry Gomez, director of the national AIDS Program, to establish the organization to assist in the fight against HIV/AIDS.Tickets for the Red Dress Soiree are available from Carlyne Smith-McKenzie, executive director of the Bahamas AIDS Foundation located on Delancy Street, telephone 325-9326/7 or can be ordered by email from aidsfoundationbahamas@yahoo.com.

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News Article

September 07, 2011
Custom Computers A's for Excellence Continues to make a Difference in Improving Education in The Bahamas

Nassau, Bahamas - Continuing in its tradition of
rewarding excellence in education, Custom Computers teamed up this year with The Hewlett-Packard Company to
present brand new computers to the winners of its Fourth Annual A's For
Excellence Awards Competition on Saturday, September 3rd, at its
Cable Beach Location. The promotion which started earlier this year, allowed
students throughout the Bahamas who received at least one 'A' grade on their
final report card, a chance to win the prizes donated by HP.

On hand for the presentation this
year were the Minister of Education, the Honourable Desmond Bannister, and Mr.
Polo Sanchez, Sales Manager for Hewlett-Packard...

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News Article

July 20, 2011
Quote of the Week - Staying Afloat

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News Article

May 01, 2014
NUA Insurance targets 3,000 clients with cyber liability product

NUA Insurance Agents & Brokers is looking to target up to 3,000 clients following the launch of its cyber liability insurance coverage -- a product that offers businesses protection from cyber attacks and other online exposures, such as e-theft.
The company, which is the first to launch this type of coverage, held its launch at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel recently, where a cross section of the business and insurance community got an opportunity to learn more about the product.
The launch is timely given that National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage recently expressed concerns about cybercrime and announced his government's plan to strengthen the appropriate legislation.
NUA Assistant Managing Director Stanford Charlton said his company had been closely monitoring similar hacking and cyber attacks that are happening internationally and felt it was time to introduce the product to the Bahamian market.
Over the Christmas holiday, hackers stole the credit and debit card information of millions of Target's customers. The U.S. retailer is now facing a string of lawsuits over its data breach.
"We said if it can happen in Europe, Asia, the United States and other places, it's at our doorsteps. We need to take this thing seriously and bring it here. We follow closely what happens in the United States. Once the claims start to happen there, people will look at The Bahamas as an easy target, so we realized that we had to bring that insurance product here," said Charlton.
Charlton indicated that if a company's IT system is breached and its clients' personal information is accessed, it may face stiff fines or penalties under the Data Protection Act, in instances where adequate safeguards were not in place to prevent the breach. Cyber liability insurance gives cover for these fines.
NUA Managing Director Warren Rolle said since the launch NUA has gotten "quite a number of inquiries from a number of our competitors".
"So, we're pretty sure that they are going to follow suit at some point," he said.
Charlton explained that NUA's staff underwent extensive training over several weeks to become familiar with the product.
NUA later invited Charles Juarbe, divisional director of global insurance broker, FINEX Global & Willis Limited, to discuss the coverage during the launch.
Rolle indicated that there have been a number of sessions with Willis, including a recent online webinar, to acclimate staff to the new product. He said he is confident that NUA is ready for a successful launch of this product.
Charlton said NUA has gotten positive feedback ever since it announced plans to launch its newest product.
"I have been getting calls non-stop asking about cyber liability insurance and when I explain what it covers and what some of the ramifications of computer hacking are clients want to know more. This was a timely presentation and I hope it sensitizes the public to knowing and understanding that they need to get this insurance," he said.
"We are live with the facility, so, when clients call us we can give quotes within 20-25 minutes once they provide us with information on their turnover, the number of employees and what limits they want, they can get quotations back quickly."
Juarbe said his company decided to partner with NUA because the company has a "strong presence" in The Bahamas.
"They know their clientele, they know what they're looking for in terms of boots on the ground and they're going to know what their clients are looking for. At Willis we're very proud to have partnered with NUA in getting this facility done because people do need the protection . . . and as the minister said, the cyber threats are coming."
Juarbe advised companies who are dealing with their customers' sensitive data to be careful when selecting outside vendors.
"As a company, you have to ask yourself two questions -- one, are you managing the IT system and two, are you outsourcing that IT system. That's the difference. Sometimes you have a company like a restaurant, and you have the owner in the back but he's only just plugging information in, in terms of profits and sales, but who is providing that point of sale system or payment providing system? That's not going to be them, that's an outsourced vendor. Then what you need to do is question that outsource vendor: do you have the firewalls, the antivirus systems to make sure you're providing adequate coverage for me because even though the restaurant is going to get coverage, they also need to make sure that the outsource provider is providing them that same protection as well. People need to know the answer because the risks and the losses are real," he said.
Juarbe also noted that there is a minimum and maximum revenue requirement when it comes to securing cyber liability insurance with NUA.
"So, if your company is making $200 million in gross revenues and more than $30 million in net profit, obviously you'd be too big for the facility. But, that doesn't mean that you can't get coverage. What we could do is go to open market, access other markets to get quotations for you," he said.
"To be excluded from the cyber facility there'd have to be a risk that we'd have to say is beyond the regular small medium enterprise risk. There are some classes of business that will fall out obviously because of the higher risk that they have, such as financial institutions or hospitals or technology companies. But does that mean that we can't get them coverage? Absolutely not. We can get them coverage and we can get them whatever limit that they're looking for."
According to Charlton, the cost of the cover is dependent on the type of business, its annual turnover and the number of employees it has. Coverage ranges from $250,000 up to $2 million.
"Premiums are quite reasonable, $412 for $1 million coverage for certain companies," he said. "It's a quick process. We promise that you will be in and out as long as we have the right information," Charlton said.

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News Article

October 05, 2013
Arts Calendar

Exhibitions
The Sew 'N' Sew Quilters Exhibition opens Tuesday, October 8, 6-9 p.m. at Doongalik Studios. For more information, call 394-1886.

An exhibition, featuring new works by Zena Burland, at the "North Winds" property on Orange Hill opens Saturday, October 5, 1-9 p.m. Also featured will be the artwork of Leroy McLean. Refreshments will be served.

The Gallery at Old For Bay presents A Two Day Art Extravaganza on Friday, October 11, 4-6 p.m. and Saturday, October 12, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Featured artists include Amos Ferguson, Anthony 'Big Mo' Morley, Antonius Roberts, James Bethel, Catherine Armstrong, Lisa Quinn, Kevin Cooper, Trevor Tucker, Natty Chenng, Nicola Angelica, Sharon Mould, Ann Morley, Imogene Walkine, Theo Tavoussis and Judith Papillon. For more information, call 242-377-7001 or email sales@thegalleryoldfortbay.com.

"Feel The Rhythm", new works by Nadine Seymour-Munroe, continues at Hillside House on Cumberland Street.

"Shakespeare in Paradise Celebrates five years of Poster Art: 2009-2013" continues at Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts. For more information, visit www.popopstudios.com or shakespeareinparadise.org.

"The Sew 'n' Sew Quilters", an exhibition of quilts, opens Tuesday, October 8, 6-9 p.m. at Doongalik Studios Art Gallery. For more information, call the studio Village Road at 394-1886.

"40 Years of Bahamian Art" continues at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). For more information, visit www.nagb.org.bs, email info@nagb.org.bs or call 328-5800/1.

"The Bahamian Collection", photographs by Duke Wells, continues at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). The opening is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.nagb.org.bs, email info@nagb.org.bs or call 328-5800/1.

"Master Artists of The Bahamas" continues at The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Featured artists are John Beadle, Jackson Burnside, Stan Burnside, John Cox, Amos Ferguson, Kendal Hanna, Brent Malone, Eddie Minnis, Antonius Roberts, Dave Smith and Max Taylor. For more information visit www.nagb.org.bs, email info@nagb.org.bs or call 328-5800/1.

Theater
The 5th annual Shakespeare in Paradise Theatre Festival opened Friday, October 4. This year's signature Shakespearean production is "The Shrew", an adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of The Shrew". The signature Bahamian production is E. Clement Bethel's folk opera, "The Legend of Sammie Swain". Also featured will be "Speak the Speech 2" and "d'bi.young anitafrika: The Sankofa Trilogy" as well as the annual Play Reading Series, a dub poetry and drama workshop and a 5th anniversary art exhibition. The festival runs until Saturday, October 12. Tickets can be purchased from the Dundas Box Office 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday to Saturday, tel: 393-3728. For additional information on Shakespeare in Paradise, visit shakespeareinparadise.org or www.facebook.com/ShakespeareInParadise.

Workshops

Shakespeare in Paradise will host a dub poetry/drama workshop on the sorplusi method, in conjunction with the "d'bi.young anitafrika: The Sankofa Trilogy" production on Saturday, October 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Registration is $50 and $25 for students. For additional information, visit shakespeareinparadise.org or www.facebook.com/ShakespeareInParadise.

The School of English Studies at The College of The Bahamas will host the 32nd annual West Indian Literature Conference, under the theme "Multiple Textualities: Imagining the Caribbean Nation". The West Indian Literature Conference Writing Workshops include "Publishing in Caribbean Studies" with Cathie Brettschneider, "Short Fiction Workshop" with Robert Antoni and "Writing for Film Workshop" with Kareem Mortimer. To reserve a space, email westindianconf2013@gmail.com or visit www.cob.edu.bs/conferences/wilc2013.php.

Gaulin Project Online Writing Workshops will be offered by Helen Klonaris for Fall 2013. "Writing Down a Life: Beginning a Memoir" runs October 11 - November 29. Additionally, "Remembering Ourselves: Healing Our Colonial Legacy", a day-long retreat will run October 12, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. To register, email thegaulinproject@gmail.com

Music
The Nassau Music Society presents award-winning pianist Ah Ruem Ahn in concert on Saturday, October 5, 7:30 p.m. at St. Andrew's Kirk, and Sunday, October 6, 5:30 p.m. at St. Paul's Church Hall, Lyford Cay. Box offices are now open at Custom Computers, Cable Beach; Logos Bookstore, Harbour Bay, and Chapter One Bookstore, Oakes Field. For more information, visit www.nassaumusicsociety.org.

Tours
Islandz, having acquired Downtown Art Tours, offers its Islandz Gallery Hop tours, examining art spaces downtown on Saturdays. Tickets are $20 per person for the two-hour tour. For more information or to book tickets, call 601-7592 or visit Islandz online at www.islandzmarket.com.

Tru Bahamian food tours offers a "Bites of Nassau" food tasting and cultural walking tour to connect people with authentic local food items, stories and traditions behind the food and the Bahamians that prepare and preserve them, through a hands-on, interactive, educational tour and culinary adventure. Tickets are $69 per person, $49 for children under 12. Tours are everyday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., starting at the British Colonial Hilton and ending at Tortuga Rum Cake Company. For more information visit www.trubahamianfoodtours.com.

Call for works
Princess Azamat 'Bo' Guirey invites Bahamian artists and resident artists to submit work to be showcased in Art International 2014, opening March 14 at Guaranty Trust Bank in Lyford Manor, Western Road. For more information and to submit your work, please contact Princess Bo Guirey at bguirey@mac.com.

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News Article

May 16, 2013
Strong demand for smart phones

Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) executives are seeing a demand for smart phones from their customers and expect the growth in this market to continue
"We have seen quite a lot of our customers purchasing smart phones. It has become quite a phenomenon since there is a such wide variety of smart phones that are available now," according to Alphanique Duncombe, BTC's product manager for wireless.
"We have seen the demand coming from the local market after BTC started to offer a lot more phones because of their design and functionality. Before launching the 4G technology in December, BTC carried of a lot of basic handsets. Now, coupled with advertising and a rise in the U.S. market, we have seen the demand locally.
"People are realizing the importance of mobility and the ability to do several things on your phone. You need to be able to check your emails on the go. Bahamians are really starting to see the need to have a smart phone. You can't live without it."
Duncombe pointed out to Guardian Business that BTC has seen a significant increase in its number of data subscribers as a result of its 4G launch back in December 2012.
"Every month, we see it going up so we expect to see continuous growth. We have LTE coming up, more demand is there because you don't just want to be mobile but you want everything fast," she said.
"You want to be able to have the same experiences you would have sitting in front of the computer. Once we are able to bring that to the customers, there is no need for the computer anymore. Everything is pretty much done on your device."
"Our data subscribers have risen incredibly and it's continuing to rise now."
In fact, Duncombe revealed to Guardian Business that just in the month of December, BTC sold between 15,000 to 20,000 phones, and most of them were smart phones. She believes those figures can give an idea of how great the smart phone "phenomenon" has been for the telecommunications company.
"We'll definitely see an increase in sales because most of our devices, especially the ones that are coming out next quarter, are in fact smart phones. There will be a new range of handsets that are coming out in the next quarter," she added.
"The smart phones are more affordable in comparison to the last year where you would have had to pay $500 plus for a smart phone. Now you're able to get an android device for $99 so customers nowadays are opting to buy smart phones as opposed to a basic phone that can't really do much."
In March, BTC forecasted a 40 percent "uplift" in data traffic this year after registering an 81 percent explosion in the smart phone usage for 2012.
BTC is targeting both the high-end smart phone market and an even more expansive entry-level market.
The result is far more data usage and ultimately higher revenue for BTC.

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News Article

October 20, 2010
Quote of the Week - Labouring under Labels

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News Article

May 11, 2014
Fueling alarm and confusion

The alarm over aragonite is reaching a fever pitch.
A coalition of pastors, union leaders and civil society activists has been making the rounds on talk shows, demanding that the government negotiate higher royalties for aragonite, a unique mineral with a wide range of uses.
At a press conference in Rawson Square last Tuesday, National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas President John Pinder estimated that the government could pocket as much as $300 million per month, or $4.2 billion a year, if it renegotiated the royalties to no less than $350 per metric ton.
The government currently receives $2 per metric ton on aragonite exported from Ocean Cay, just south of Bimini.
The figures quoted by Pinder are significant amounts.
The coalition also says in its fact sheet being circulated that the Bahamian aragonite operation has the potential to be a multi-trillion-dollar industry.
President of Sandy Cay Development Co. Limited Tony Myers, whose company has a 25-year lease from the Bahamas government, said they are selling on average at $12 per metric ton -- far from the $900 figure we keep hearing from the coalition.
At the press conference last week, Pinder was supported by Dwight Smith, chairman of the Police Staff Association; Gregory Archer, president of the Prison Staff Association; members of the Bahamas National Citizens Coalition, and other activists who claim the royalty portion of the agreement between Sandy Cay and the government is up for renewal next month.
We asked Pinder on Friday where the numbers he quoted came from.
While Pinder was the spokesman at the press conference, he told us he did not personally do the research and advised us to speak to Wesley Campbell, who he said is the researcher for the Bahamas National Citizens Coalition.
But a seemingly irritated Campbell refused to speak to National Review yesterday.
He angrily accused us of "deceiving" the coalition's chairman, Rev. Andrew Stewart, by failing to provide him with a copy of the lease between Sandy Cay and the government.
Campbell said the failure of National Review to turn over the lease to the coalition was deceptive because the coalition had previously provided National Review with information as part of its probe into the aragonite issue.
While Campbell refused to speak to us, Stewart did so on Friday night.
We questioned him about the information his group has put into the public domain.
Stewart said the coalition has a research team that has done a lot of work.
We asked him about the coalition's claim in a fact sheet that the lease between Sandy Cay and the government of The Bahamas is "renewable every two years" and was granted by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government.
He insisted this was a fact.
When informed by National Review that the lease was signed under the Ingraham administration and does not speak to renewal every two years, Stewart said this statement by the coalition had been based on an "assumption".
We found this admission simply unbelievable.
Asked whether the coalition leaders have read the lease, Stewart admitted that they had not and asked National Review if he could have a copy.
We then committed to asking our source whether this would be possible.
We believe the coalition was confused by a letter written by Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister David Davis on June 3, 2010 to H. Campbell Cleare III, the attorney for Sandy Cay.
In that letter, Davis advised Sandy Cay that it could recommence its aragonite operation while a new lease was negotiated. Sandy Cay bought the old lease in 2009 from AES Corporation, which operated at Ocean Cay and unsuccessfully sought to get approval from the Bahamas government for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) operation.
The government signed a 25-year lease with Sandy Cay on April 20, 2012.
The lease signed with Sandy Cay provides for "a royalty computed as B$2 per ton for demised mineral exported from The Bahamas encompassing the first five years of the lease, after which the royalty shall be computed as 10 percent of the sales price, with a minimum fee of B$2 per ton up to a maximum fee of B$12 per ton for demised mineral exported from The Bahamas".
The lease was backdated to June 3, 2010 when negotiations began.
Admission
After admitting that the coalition is agitating even though it has not read the lease, Stewart said the fact that the lease is not up for renewal adds strength to the coalition's argument.
"It's unthinkable to us that the lease would have been a mere blanket 25-year lease and after over 40 years having been renewed by successive governments periodically, for the government to just give them a 25-year blanket," said Stewart, who also could not prove that the government previously agreed to leases renewable every three years.
The government's former lease for Ocean Cay had no such provision either.
"What our assumption was, not seeing as you have seen the 2012 lease, having only had in our possession the 2010 lease, we assumed that it was renewed somewhere around the anniversary of the 2010 year lease," Stewart explained.
But again, there was no 2010 lease, just a letter written by the government to Sandy Cay allowing the operation to resume while the negotiations for a new lease took place.
Stewart told National Review, "We stand corrected that it is the FNM government and that it is not this government" that negotiated the lease.
He added, "Having discovered that now and having that verified it's a far more horrendous position that the Bahamian people find themselves in than we had ever imagined. Our research department just gave the daily cost on the world market."
Myers, the Sandy Cay president, provided an invoice showing that one of his latest shipments had a cost of $12.50 per metric ton.
Asked whether the coalition has taken into consideration that aragonite has significant add-on value after it is processed by U.S. companies that buy from Ocean Cay, Stewart said, "We recognize that there are layers of costs and pricing, but world market price first cost, our research department has discovered that $900 is a figure."
After further questions from National Review, Stewart also admitted that the coalition never reached out to Sandy Cay to ask questions on what the company is doing or how much it sells aragonite for.
Incredibly, he also admitted that the coalition has not had conversations with the government over a matter it has been making so many demands about.
After it was explained to him that the lease is not up for renewal, Stewart said the government could still act in the interest of the Bahamian people.
"We feel that the government is the influential bargaining agent that can influence or with the stroke of a pen change these arrangements," said Stewart, insisting the coalition has "professional research".
He added, "The Bahamian aragonite is the most sought after aragonite in the world because it is of the highest quality."
Further explaining why the coalition has acted without reading the current lease for aragonite harvesting that exists, Stewart said, "The whole issue with regard to our natural resources has been a private issue in the Office of the Prime Minister.
"Facts are not easy to come by, and for us to have gotten this far, I think we have done a yeoman's job. And in fact, one must remember that we are operating without the Freedom of Information Act.
"Once we have that it wouldn't be like pulling teeth. And so, we have come this far by faith and we trudge on ahead in seeking to inform the Bahamian people."
Irresponsible
We agree with Stewart on the need for the long-discussed Freedom of Information Act.
While we see wisdom in discussing the aragonite issue and whether the Bahamian people are getting what they deserve, we abhor discussions fuelled by misinformation, incomplete information and emotions.
This is counter productive to what those leading the cause might be seeking to achieve, and it may create disharmony.
The so-called facts being put in the public domain are fuelling hysteria and a great deal of confusion.
The coalition should be embarrassed that it is making claims in the absence of all the facts.
It is riling the emotions of the public although it has not read the aragonite lease.
It is speaking -- by the admission of its chairman -- based on an "assumption".
This is highly irresponsible.
It has not spoken to the principal of the company harvesting aragonite.
It has not had discussions with the government on this matter.
Union President John Pinder trusted the "research" of the Bahamas National Citizens Coalition.
Pinder said revenue from increased aragonite royalties could be used to pay every Bahamian at least $50,000 within 18 months of adjusting the terms.
He said this could significantly drive down crime and bring prosperity for all Bahamians.
Pinder aligned his good name with what the coalition presented to him, and did so with the backing of both the police and prison staff associations.
We wonder if the coalition knows how easy it is to access the lease it has not seen.
We respectfully urge our fellow citizens to be careful how they accept information without doing their own research.
We have reported the results of our initial research into this matter.
We do not take the side of Sandy Cay, but it is important to give it a voice in this national debate and that is why we contacted its principal, Tony Myers.
It is why we asked him to allow us to see his company's invoices.
Review
Last week, Minister of Environment Kenred Dorsett said successive governments have "not been aggressive" enough when negotiating royalties for aragonite.
He also said the former administration signed off on an aragonite royalty of $2 per metric ton, even though it initially wanted a figure of between $12 and $15.
The minister also suggested the deal is being reviewed.
"We are looking at those issues to make sure the people get what they are entitled to in terms of their fair share of the revenue associated with extracting those natural resources."
Dorsett advised that a Cabinet sub-committee was formed a few months ago to address this matter.
It is clear that the government should play a stronger role in bringing a more temperate approach to this debate.
We make no statement on whether the government is getting fair royalties.
If in fact there is a review taking place, we hope, and we assume that the government is making use of its scientific and technical experts to drive the process.
Clearly, there is also a need for public education on this matter.
The government should make a full and clear statement, as opposed to ambiguous statements not thoroughly considered.
In driving this discussion, all involved should do so responsibly -- the government, the media and civil society.
This matter has reached a point where the spread of misinformation has had a huge impact on many people now demanding the government renegotiate royalties.
In a democracy, agitation is good.
But in the absence of facts, it could be dangerous.
Its outcome can only be positive if it is done responsibly.

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News Article

April 07, 2014
Community Leaders to Speak at the Lower The Cost of Power Mega Rally

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens continues it declare the message that the high cost of electricity must come down to an affordable level across Grand Bahama...

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News Article

December 24, 2013
Atlantis president calls for VAT delay

As the government moves full speed ahead with its intention to implement value-added tax (VAT), a leading hotelier said he would have preferred a sales tax and is urging the government to delay the implementation date for VAT.
In an interview with Guardian Business, Atlantis President and Managing Director George Markantonis said for the Paradise Island property, implementing a sales tax would be "easier" than implementing VAT. He made this suggestion as uncertainty still looms about the latter form of taxation.
"We all understand it and the whole world has done it (sales tax). And more importantly for us, our computer systems would be able to take those changes," he said.
While the government has proposed a general VAT rate of 15 percent, the hotel sector will be subject to a lower rate of 10 percent. Markantonis has estimated that his company will have to spend at least $500,000 on technology to implement VAT.
Markantonis is not the only one suggesting that a sales tax be implemented instead of VAT.
Numerous members of the business community, such as President of the Bahamas Motor Dealers Association Fred Albury, and Super Value President Rupert Roberts, have also touted such an alternative as a simpler alternative to VAT.
Meanwhile, Pedro Delaney, a chartered accountant and chief financial officer at Societe Generale Private Banking (Bahamas) Ltd. and SG Hambros Bank and Trust (Bahamas) Ltd., recently said the government should consider other forms of taxation such as a corporate income tax, which he believes would be easier to implement.
"When you consider income taxes, there are personal income taxes as well as corporate income taxes. Corporate taxes may be an easier measure to implement if we are going to address income taxes. The government may in considering that want to consider a flat rate for corporations on their net income," he noted.
The government, however, has pointed to the more "regressive" nature of a sales tax, which does not allow for credits for tax paid on inputs, and therefore becomes "a tax on a tax". Officials have also suggested the credit mechanism under VAT would increase compliance with the tax regime.
Atlantis' top executive is urging the government to postpone the July 2014 implementation to allow for more preparation time. In the meantime, Markantonis confirmed that Atlantis plans to hire consultants to help it understand the ins and outs of VAT and the impact it could have. He maintains that his biggest concern is the possibility of The Bahamas outpricing itself as a destination.
"We're not sure how it's going to impact us spread across our campus because we have multiple business units and revenue streams. They're not all what it would be in a typical hotel. Is Marina Village, which has four of our restaurants, part of the hotel or not? How do the dolphins fall into this picture? There are a lot of factors you have to look at," he told Guardian Business.
"We're not going to eat the costs, that's for sure. So the issue is going to be if there is going to be an added cost, and if we're not going to be reimbursed for it in another manner, which is trackable, that's the key, then obviously we are going to have to pass that on to the consumer. Do we like it? Well, no. I hope it doesn't get to that because we certainly don't want to outprice our destination because we are already fairly pricey."
Officials at the Ministry of Finance estimate that VAT can generate approximately $200 million in revenue in the first year alone, which the government has suggested is key to reducing national debt levels.

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