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The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) came into existence on September 1, 2009. URCA replaced the Public Utilities Commission and the Television Regulatory Authority. URCA is supposed to act as an independent body and its main purpose is to regulate the telecommunications industry.
On its website, when clicking on the consumer section, there are five main points that URCA is supposed to ensure that competitors in the telecommunications industry execute to protect consumers. These are listed below:
o Ensuring that the quality of your utility services are satisfactory
o Ensuring that prices for utility services are reasonable
o Promoting and protecting your interest
o Promoting competition in the utility sectors
o Publishing reports on the utility sectors.
I ask the question then: What is URCA doing to ensure that the consumers of cellular services receive satisfactory service? BTC's announcement that it is upgrading its network and that there are going to be outages is not good enough. Certainly, URCA has a much bigger role to play, but as it is supposed to be an independent body, why isn't it publicly coming to the defense of the consumer?
Friday, June 15, 2012 was another day in which many businesses lost thousands of dollars because cellular services were disrupted. This in my view is unacceptable. Where is the redundancy in BTC's network? Shouldn't capabilities exist so that when the primary system is down, that the secondary system is booted up to handle all the network traffic?
If these capabilities do not exist now, I hope URCA has demanded that BTC put these systems in place for future upgrades. We have had a horrific experience with the New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP) and now the upgrades at BTC are proving to be moving along the same trend. These examples are certainly not the best way to execute projects.
Maybe BTC and the decision makers of the NPRIP can look at the execution of the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD). They are rebuilding Lynden Pindling Airport, but the airport has remained open and is still providing its core service which is to ensure that consumers depart and return to the airport safely.
Bahamians now know better and these companies who take the unpopular approach to projects without carefully considering the negative effects to its consumers had better get on with it and rethink their strategies. I say to URCA that BTC's outages are planned and the question to ask is why these planned outages can't be completed between 12 a.m. - 6 a.m.
I say to URCA, that "independent body", to please regulate and protect the consumers.
- Dehavilland Moss
Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner yesterday said Prime Minister Perry Christie's criticism of her in the House of Assembly Thursday night showed that her recent attacks against the government have gotten under his skin.
"I had basically showed where the government led under him demonstrated a high level of incompetence," Butler-Turner said. "I think that must have hit a very raw nerve because the anger demonstrated by him last night was certainly very high.
"I think that the only way that he felt that he could attack me was not on context but actually on what he perceived to be, I guess, my physical appearance and I guess what he is now saying is my incompetence."
As he wrapped up the debate of an amendment to the Constitutional Referendum Act, Christie questioned how the Long Island MP, who had ministerial oversight of the Department of Social Services, could accuse him of incompetence.
"I never mind what she says, I always resent the degree that she is patronizing," the prime minister said. "It doesn't fit her, it doesn't become her, but so be it. I want her to know that the very first problem confronted by my government was the level of incompetence by her in the performance of her responsibility of her portfolio as a minister of social services."
He said when his party assumed office in May it found that children housed in the Simpson Penn Centre for Boys did not have bedding, mattresses and proper indoor plumbing.
"She subjected poor children who had no means of taking care of themselves to savage and barbaric conditions," he said.
"She is a walking case of incompetence, she walks heavily with it, she is burdened by it and she cannot escape it," he added. "Coming around here talking about incompetence.
"She should be ashamed of herself and even though it is difficult for her to walk light, she should come in here, Mr. Speaker, at least having respect to the point where you can deal with people respectfully."
Last week in the House, the Long Island MP heckled the prime minister as he made a communication on the upcoming gambling referendum. While seated, she made repeated references to his government's "incompetence" and eventually walked out of the Lower Chamber before he could finish his speech.
When she gave her contribution on the amendment Thursday, she questioned how Prime Minister Perry Christie and the lawyers in his Cabinet could come to Parliament weeks ago with no mention of legislation needed to facilitate the gambling vote only to return with an amendment meant to pave the way for the referendum.
Recently we have read several articles about the dissatisfaction of various unions in the country on many labor issues. We also saw the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) celebrate a recent agreement and the award of long overdue healthcare benefits.
Today's global economy is a constantly changing dynamic environment that has a profound impact on how we work. It has forced our businesses to downsize, rightsize, flatten management structures, create flexible technologies and, most importantly, begin developing skilled workers who can compute, communicate, operate sophisticated equipment and provide value-added input in borderless services sectors with high levels of proficiency.
The noted author A.P. Carnevale, who has written extensively on productivity and related issues, offered the following on the subject: "These 'new' workers must possess the intellectual and emotional flexibility necessary to adapt to changing situations, to understand what needs to be learned, and to learn it without disrupting performance. They must be able to cope with ambiguous situations, make good decisions quickly, and use their creative skills to solve workplace dilemmas."
Unfortunately, many Bahamian workers do not have the skills necessary to survive this new economy with their jobs intact. They have seen their jobs lost to other jurisdictions, automated processes, technological advances and productivity improvement initiatives like re-engineering.
The government's recently enacted job readiness program is a step in the right direction in assisting workers to better prepare themselves for the ever-changing and challenging environment. Our workers need help. We hope that our young workers in particular take advantage of this opportunity.
The American Council of Competitiveness writes: "... achieving a well-trained workforce should be the result of an integrated process that embraces developing occupational standards, improving school-to-work programs, continuing worker training on the job, and providing new government structures which offer consolidated services to workers, businesses and training institutions."
The council's article contends that organized labor unions can play a vital role in resolving workforce deficiencies, and that government, unions and companies (both private and public) must rise above animosities and petty self-interests incubated during decades of mistrust, to work together to develop cooperative training initiatives.
The article focuses specifically on labor's responsibilities in this new relationship and examines labor's role in providing needed literacy and training programs. In doing so, it describes labor's historic role in basic and workplace literacy training, lists the need for skilled workers in the 'new' workplace, describes exemplary union-management literacy efforts, and suggests considerations unions must recognize when developing these programs for their members.
We cannot see this development in the local unions here in The Bahamas. We encourage union leaders who are not developing employees in this challenging global environment to seek to partner with employers to ensure the same.
Since the late 19th century, labor unions have helped their members manage workplace changes by making sure the education and training they needed was available. Education must continue throughout life if workers are to really make progress and contribute with maximum efficiency. Labor unions today, in our opinion, should be advocating equal educational opportunities, labor representation on all educational boards and access to all educational levels for union members and their children.
Unless government, labor and corporate Bahamas work together to ensure that our high school students and current work force are equipped to complete in this global village, we will be relegated to being a country with a structurally uncompetitive labor pool.
Educational Trust Funds (ETF) are commonplace in many countries. ETFs are segregated funds with the specific purpose to fund education and training. These ETFs are fundamental pillars in major collective bargaining agreements and typically (in about 90 percent of all agreements) include a Tuition Aid Program. Maybe our union leaders should redirect their focus?
The first in a two-part series. To be continued next week.
CFAL is a sister company of The Nassau Guardian under the AF Holdings Ltd. umbrella. CFAL provides investment management, research, brokerage and pension services. For comments, please contact CFAL at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Winder has held a number of senior positions in financial services during his long career. He is a former director and head of business development at Ansbacher (Bahamas) Ltd., and prior to that he served as a managing director and member of the board of Sovereign Trust. In 2010, he became the managing director of ATC Group in The Bahamas, and he is also the chairman of the Bahamas Financial Services Board.
Guardian Business: What is the biggest challenge facing your business or sector? What measures need to be taken in The Bahamas to solve it?
Paul: Increased competition from other jurisdictions is a major challenge. However, through consultation, industry is working together to undertake collective marketing as opposed to individual institutional marketing initiative, such as the recent visit to Brazil and the upcoming Landfall Europe between the private sector and the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB). Successive governments have provided industry with the products/tools and now we need to understand and market the same to our target markets.
GB: How has your business or sector changed since the financial crisis?
Paul: It has been a time of significant change, with returns being at an all-time low, investment values reduced resulting in clients needing to access savings or trust assets. This has led to certain clients having to close trust structures in order to bolster their domestic businesses or general lifestyles so they do not lose their homes. On the flip side, certain prudent investors who were able to ride the financial crisis are in a very strong position for the future. ATC Group has been in business since 1893 and has always planned for the prospect of a financial crisis, hence it's ability to weather the downturn over the past three or four years.
GB: Briefly, can you describe a life experience that changed how you approach your work today?
Paul: Moving to the Caribbean in 1995 was a large change in my life and it opened up my cultural horizons. The benefit of a cultural change is that it enables you to be more appreciative of differing approaches to business when you have a global client base, and thus more sensitive to clients and staff needs.
GB: What are you currently reading?
Paul: "Honour Thy Father", which is a factual account of an entrepreneur who struggles through adversity to establish a hugely successful business and then undertakes an estate plan to empower his children. Unfortunately once his children obtain the control they seek to ostracize him - a great read for a trustee!
GB: Has the high cost of energy hurt your business? What solutions have you initiated or considered to combat it?
Paul: Not from a business perspective, however, I installed low-energy fans at home to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
GB: What makes
a great boss?
Paul: A mentor who is willing to listen and then interprets their colleagues view points into a plan with benchmarks and deadlines in order for them to gauge the success of the installation.
GB: If you could change one thing concerning business in The Bahamas, what would it be?
Paul: With respect to the financial services, and it's interaction between government departments and industry, I would suggest providing additional resources for educational training on industry products as well as further staff in departments such as the Registrar Generals Department, which has come under criticism despite making huge strides. Increased educated staff with access to additional education and training is an investment in the future of our second tier industry in The Bahamas and should not be ignored. The Registrar General's Department, for example, touches so many different areas and with the previously mentioned resources would enable a distinct increase in the ease of doing business in The Bahamas.
GB: What keeps you grounded? Do you have any major interests other than work?
Paul: A system of checks and balances both at home and in work assist in keeping me grounded as does the fact that I learn something new everyday, and thus need to remember life is full of new experiences and knowledge.
GB: What should young businesses keep in mind in this current economic climate to survive?
Paul: Young businesses must have a clear business plan and stick to it whilst watching costs and making sure they obtain best prices for all purchases. It is important that they understand their target market and obtain the most efficient access to it through marketing initiatives, such as social media. The most important investment in any business is to invest in people no matter what the economic climate.
GB: How would you describe or classify the ease of doing business in The Bahamas?
Paul: The Bahamas in various recent reports does not fare well when it comes to the ease of doing business. I do believe that a greater investment in the people, systems, and such backing E-Government programs, will reap its rewards, as we are moving in the right direction. However, there needs to be a concerted effort by industry and government akin to our international competition.
It is the fundamental right for each and every Bahamian to have access to healthcare regardless of their religion, creed, race or financial status. It is the role of Government to ensure the basic rights of individuals are met, it is the goal of my Government to ensure that the Bahamian people have full access to quality and affordable healthcare.
Mikell Butler has dreams. She wants to become an oncologist and is taking steps to ensure that her dreams come true in her first year studying bio-chemistry at The College of the Bahamas (COB), with plans to move on to study medicine at the University of the West Indies in August. She has the money needed for her studies, with an $80,000 government scholarship to be disbursed over four years at the college of her choice.
With lofty goals, the 18-year-old says knowing her limits and realizing when it is time to step back and stop worrying is a lesson she has learned, and will put into practice as she continues on the second phase of her academic life. The 2011 C.V. Bethel High School graduate says stressing over grades is not the way to go if one wants to succeed academically. There are people who would disagree with her, after all, she graduated high school with a 3.67 grade point average. She also had the best Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) results, seven A grades in Math, History, Combined Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Language, and two B grades for Spanish and Literature. She was also her school's valedictorian.
With all of her accomplishments, people would think she always had her head in her books and studied non-stop to accomplish what she did but she says quite to the contrary.
"When it comes to studying and preparing for exams you have to understand that they are only tests. They may greatly assist you later in life, but they don't determine who you are or what you can do. Success comes in many ways and it is easy to fall short of your full potential by overtaxing yourself and not just living," says Butler.
She believes that many academically gifted young people are too competitive and absorbed in their own worlds so much so that they let life pass them by, and don't take time to see that there are others out there that could use a hand.
Besides obtaining her medical degree, she wants to create a program for high school students that would not only provide tutoring services for people that need it, but also incorporate professional people mentoring students.
"To me, the true test of one's mastery of a subject is when he can teach what he knows to his peers. This is why I really want to create a program where students help students, but they are also introduced to the 'real world' by having mentors in the fields they want to get into. It would do some good to really get a good idea about the field of work you want to get into and really understand if you like it before you spend years in school studying it. I want to do something that can really positively impact students because so many of us are disserviced and have no real path to follow once we finish school."
The over achiever says her desire to work with high school students arose from her own experiences and desires that things could have been different for her during her high school years. While she was able to assist other students and get help as well, she says it was in a very limited way. When it came time to decide on a career path, she had already chosen medicine, but says there was nothing in place for her to be mentored by professionals in the field, so that she could know specifically which specialization she was interested in. This is something that she hopes will not have to happen to future students.
"I know there is a guidance counselling department in most schools, but I do not feel they often do enough to prepare students for their future. They do a great job bringing in persons from the community from different careers of course, but this is also very limited and not all careers of interest are represented. Many times students enjoy what they see but there is no way to keep in contact with these guest speakers, which is frustrating to students. Furthermore, finding a job after spending years in school is hard sometimes and it helps if you already know someone in the field and they can guide you. So I am really looking forward to getting this program off the ground in another year or two."
In the meantime, Butler encourages students to work with what they have and work hard to make their own way in the professional world. She says finding support wherever you can is just as important. For her it was her family, community and friends that were the driving force behind her success to date.
"While tutoring and mentoring are important, other elements like familial support and community involvement are also important to a student's success. My reasons for pushing the mentoring program is because so many students don't have the home support, drive or means to explore the field of work they wish to enter themselves. Because of this they need a push. But even so I think the best push of it all is when the family and community is involved."
The student said her parents, Michael and Gayle Butler, ensured they were there for her for, whether she was receiving a certificate or a trophy. She said they made sure they never missed anything that she was honored at.
She also encourages parents to be more active in their children's academic life because she believes the best tutor of all is found at home. In primary school and junior school she remembers her mom really pushing her and helping with her school work. By the time Mikell got to high school she was responsible for her studies, but she said she had the right foundation to excel on her own. She recognizes that no matter how many outside tutors she had, if she didn't have support at home she may not have achieved as she did academically.
"Although I am sure my mentoring program will be successful in many ways it will not be as useful if students don't have a foundation to build on. They can have lofty dreams but if there is no work ethic or people who are proud of them, many students tend not to care. This is why I believe the best tutors or mentors are first and foremost a student's parents and community. If they have support in the places closest to them they can use the support they find elsewhere like at school a lot better."
The COB student said it is also important for students to be proactive and discover their strengths and weaknesses early in their academic careers. This way she said they know what they are good at and what they need help with. She said they will also be able to find methods that work for them when it comes to studying. She added that students need to realize that what works for one person may not work for another, and that they should not keep trying to compare themselves to other people. Not being realistic about their abilities, and burning themselves out due to stress, she believes causes many capable students to fall short academically.
If she was able to speak to her peers, she said she would advise them to pace themselves and stop worrying about achieving perfection. For students on the other side of the spectrum, who just don't believe in themselves academically, she advised them to challenge themselves and seek the help they need to succeed.
"It's all about knowing yourself. I don't think many students are conscious of their actual capabilities. Some overshoot and others underestimate. I think spending time calculating what you will need to do per class, and how much time you have to give to each subject realistically in order to succeed, is something students need to do. It's better to succeed at the eight subjects you know you can do well in and have the time to study, for than to push for 10 subjects knowing that you need more time to prepare for them than you have, and as a result do a mediocre job across the board. On the other hand, some students don't test themselves and will settle for the bare minimum. These students need a challenge and should push themselves a bit harder. But like I said you have to know what you can do and work accordingly."
Even when succeeding academically and being on the right course for future success, the young lady said it is also important for students to be involved in their communities and do things just because they want to. She said finding a balance in life with academics and extracurricular activities are key in a person's holistic success.
"As a person your life will not always be about studying, so you have to get used to interacting and networking with other people. You cannot be a completely balanced or well-rounded person if academics are the only things you care about."
During high school, Mikell was involved in numerous activities, from science clubs to the Governor General Youth Award program and Junior Achievers. She said she had a lot of things she needed to study, but always made to time for life.
As she begins her journey to make her dream of becoming a doctor reality, Mikell advised her peers to continue to work hard, but to not over-stress themselves about examinations, and to always make time for fun activities, if not just for their college resumes then at least for themselves. Doing well she said is always a plus, but taking the time to appreciate life and make lifelong friends along the way is invaluable.
What attracted you to the sector? My interest in the financial sector started in high school when I was first introduced to accounting in my senior year. To further my education, I had the opportunity to attend Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, where I obtained my Bachelor's of Business Administration degree in Accounting.
The CEO of one of the most elite medical institutions in the world says the U.S. and The Bahamas should work together to improve public health and reduce the rising cost of care. Steve Thompson, the CEO of John Hopkins Medicine International, said a more intimate and collaborative relationship would improve the capabilities within The Bahamas and actually reduce the number of individuals seeking treatment abroad.
I rise to speak on the 2010/2011 Budget package of Bills
I do so, ever grateful to the wonderful people of the Mount Moriah Constituency, who have been an integral part of my life and work since 1987, (23 years ago) when I first contested the Oakes Field Constituency. As I contribute to the Budget debate for the 18th consecutive time, I thank the people of Mount Moriah, and publicly acknowledge my love and commitment to them.
Company: Front office manager, British Colonial Hilton
Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
Andrew: I started work in the field of hospitality in 1991 on the front desk at the Casuarinas Hotel on West Bay Street. I then moved to The Sheraton Grand Hotel on Paradise Island in 1992 until 1999, when I was given the opportunity to be a part of the team at the Hilton Hotel downtown.
Within my present role I am responsible for the front desk, concierge, valet, pool, beach and gym and the executive lounge, which hosts our top tier guests.
GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Andrew: The various daily activities are very exciting. Everyday brings new challenges and the opportunity to meet people from around the world. No two days are the same, especially when working along with people from various cultures and backgrounds.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Andrew: I have had so many, from meeting royalty (most recently Prince Harry) and celebrities, to being selected to work in Minneapolis to work for Hilton, to administering CPR to a child that had a coin lodged in her throat. Overall, the hotel industry has been very good to me.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Andrew: The industry has changed drastically; guests are much more knowledgeable about the product and services and aspects of the daily operation have truly evolved into a science from a revenue standpoint. Overall, customer service is very demanding and we have had to rise to the challenge in order to remain competitive.
GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Andrew: We as a country must become more service oriented. I feel that we have strayed away from a true service culture and must focus on regaining this. As our number one industry, training needs to be introduced earlier in high school education in order to groom those that wish to become tourism professionals. The establishment of a BGCSE in hospitality would be great! Also, due to the high operating cost locally, there should be further concessions, especially to smaller branded hotels in order to attract them to us.
GB: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?
Andrew: Stay focused on your goals and try to gain a strong educational base and work on your language skills. Work and interact with as many people as possible in order to help you decide if you have skill of working along with people. Be patient but aggressive and take on any opportunities for advancement that may come your way.