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As we enter a new year filled with opportunities to direct the path of our nation, the Bahamian public will have the opportunity to weigh in on a local industry that has formed a part of our society from time immemorial.
The government by way of a national address by the minister of national security released the two questions that will be posed to the Bahamian people in the referendum on gambling scheduled for January 28, 2013. The debate on the gambling issue has intensified with the "Vote Yes" (proponents) and "Vote No" (opponents) campaigns in full gear. Bahamians and non-Bahamians alike have weighed in on the upcoming referendum and contributed their views by way of print media and advertisements.
The case put forth by the "Vote Yes" Campaign (VYC) is one that on the face of it seems compelling based on the economic and fiscal realities our nation is confronted with. The reality is that the struggling global economy continues to negatively impact our two leading industries - tourism and financial services. The government finds itself in a dilemma; strapped for cash with rising expenditure and reduced revenue in a challenging economic environment, with more than 40,000 persons out of work and joblessness presumably on the rise.
In this article, we analyze the VYC and the arguments that have been put forward by this group. The VYC is built upon the following major issues: (1) Employment and the economy; (2) Bahamian ownership; (3) annual revenue; (4) community giving and (5) freedom of choice. An analysis of each issue should be undertaken. Based on the statistics provided by the VYC to support the arguments presented, one may assume that the web shops possess exceptional record keeping practices, sophisticated systems, data collation and analysis capabilities and a vibrant local network. Let us review some of the figures provided by the VYC.
The VYC argues that nearly three percent of the Bahamian workforce is employed by the alleged Bahamian-owned gaming industry; representing some 3,000 direct jobs and purportedly 2,000 indirect jobs. Many questions arise as a result of this assertion. How many web shop/numbers operators exist in The Bahamas? What roles or positions do these 3,000 individuals hold? Certainly, they are not all CEOs, managers, accountants, lawyers, etc. Where is their place of work? Is it in the empty web shops that are positioned throughout our archipelago whose patrons presumably patronize the numbers business from the comfort of their homes, workplaces and/or telephones? Where are funds received from patrons processed? Are local banking institutions accepting the proceeds from these web shops? If so, are funds received consistent with the business activities/purpose? If in fact local financial institutions are not accepting funds from web shop owners, are they processing funds on their own? If so, are the web shop owners subjected to regulation governing financial activities and transactions? More importantly, are employees of these organizations able to receive payroll in local bank accounts on direction from web shop owners?
In the absence of credible evidence, it is difficult to accept the VYC's claim that they are responsible for directly employing some 3,000 persons. The VYC further claims that the National Insurance Board (NIB) receives approximately $14.4 million annually from the alleged Bahamian-owned gaming industry. This too is difficult to accept in the absence of information provided on the annual earnings of entities operating in this industry. Is the VYC prepared to produce copies of its NIB receipts for at least the past three years? Further, can NIB confirm or deny the numbers provided by the VYC? In the absence of evidence and/or confirmation by NIB and relevant government agencies, these figures can only be taken at face value simply as lobbying mechanisms. The VYC must convince voters that a "no" vote outcome will have a serious economic impact on the Bahamian economy as alleged.
The VYC alleges that the "four major gaming houses combined with countless other small businesses that provide gaming services are all 100 percent Bahamian owned". The question arises: Who are the major shareholders of the "four major gaming houses" among others? Why have they refused to come forward and present their case to the Bahamian public? How is the Bahamian public able to confirm that the alleged gaming industry is in fact Bahamian owned? The reality is that the Bahamian public has not been provided with incorporating documents to prove that these businesses are legitimate. Additionally, the public has not had an opportunity to question the operators of these gaming houses. Could it be that the owners of these operations agree by silence that they are in effect lawbreakers seeking to have their activities legitimized? The "vote yes Bahamas" website itself concedes that "there remain legal barriers restricting the progress of this Bahamian-owned industry". It is only fitting that the Bahamian people know who they are voting "yes" for and whether these individuals are deserving of our favorable vote.
It has been indicated by the VYC that the government will receive some $30 million in annual revenue through taxation, which by their calculations represents 5.5 percent of our national deficit. Upon which basis have the gaming houses arrived at this conclusion? Although these gaming houses are privately held companies/businesses that have no obligation to produce financial statements and share the same with the general public, to date the VYC has not produced financial reports to substantiate the financial assertions made. How is the Bahamian public able to confirm that all funds received by the gaming houses are in fact derived from the Bahamian public who purchase numbers daily? At the very least, the "four major gaming houses" ought to provide evidence to the Bahamian public by way of financial statements and/or reports to substantiate their claims. This matter may be considered from a point of view of a public offering for shares. Certainly a wise investor would not invest his funds in an entity without reviewing some evidence on the financial soundness of the firm. Likewise, if the VYC wants the Bahamian public to invest votes in the continuance and existence of their business operations by voting yes, then certainly the public should be provided with an accurate accounting of their operations.
Finally, the VYC claims that the web shop operators have been good community providers donating some $1.2 million to charitable efforts. While this may seem commendable, such an amount pales in comparison to the alleged annual earnings of the gaming industry.
The VYC states that it is opposed to a national lottery and would prefer self-control of the industry. While it is good for governments to encourage entrepreneurship among its people, the government must be careful not to carve out an industry for a select few only. It is interesting to note that the VYC is not advocating for casino gambling; rather the focus is on protecting the enterprises that have been built off an illegal activity. While it appears that the VYC is an avid advocate for Bahamian rights, the VYC appears to have "pled the 5th" on the casino gambling issue. Arguably this forms a part of a greater issue in that the VYC has accepted casino gambling for the foreigner only and numbers only for the Bahamians; at least for now.
The all important question is whether the Bahamian people are in favor of placing this industry in the hands of a select few whose business operations are not transparent enough to enable us to make a determination as to why we should vote yes.
The aforementioned points should be in the minds of the Bahamian public as the referendum day approaches.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-Law. Comments can be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cable Bahamas (CBL) has urged the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) to take a "proactive approach" to "tariff rebalancing" by Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and to introduce a single consistent "calling party pays" (CPP) pricing regime.
In a consultation document issued yesterday by URCA, with respect to its proposed changes to the rules governing retail prices for BTC and Cable Bahamas, URCA notes comments received from the telecoms providers with respect to pricing.
Of those which fell "outside of the remit" of the pricing review in which URCA is now engaged, the authority said Cable Bahamas' claims that BTC's tariff rebalancing is a "long outstanding regulatory issue which URCA should take proactive measures to address" is one such concern.
Noting Cable Bahamas' concerns nonetheless, URCA said: "CBL believes URCA's involvement in a tariff rebalancing exercise for BTC would engender greater certainty for customers and would further the sector policy objectives."
However, URCA said that rules on tariff rebalancing are all outside of the remit of its present review as do calls from Cable Bahamas for retail prices to be based on a "calling party pays" regime.
"URCA accepts that it has a significant role to play in any tariff rebalancing strategy for BTC. However, concerns over rebalancing go well beyond the retail pricing rules. URCA considers that CBL's proposal is more appropriate with the introduction of price caps and does not believe it is reasonable for URCA to provide guidance in the rules on tariff rebalancing.
"CBL (also) recommends the adoption of a single consistent 'calling party pays' pricing regime, which would be in line with international best practice and also in the best interest of the Bahamian public. CBL notes that other countries have benefitted from similar moves to a single pricing regime. URCA also considers that CBL's proposal for retail prices to be based on a single consistent CPP regime is similarly outside the scope of this consultation."
Proposing to "address concerns raised" by the two telecoms providers over how pricing rules function, URCA notes that BTC's primary concerns in this regard are that there is exercise of regulatory forbearance; greater reliance on ex-competition powers; greater transparency of the approval process; predictability and "greater pricing flexibility.
On Cable Bahamas' part, the BISX-listed provider suggested it was most concerned that existing price regulations are "not efficient and proportionate", are not subject to a "clearly defined set of objectives", that "price cap regulation" should be considered and that there is a streamlining and reduction of ambiguity relating to rules with respect to the pricing of telecoms services.
URCA accepted some of the company's concerns, but rejected others.
In a consultation published on the regulator's website, URCA said that while it recognized BTC's call for "greater reliance on ex-post (after the fact) competition provisions", it stated that it believes there is a "need for pre-emptive or ex-ante measures to safeguard competition and the protection of consumer interests".
"While BTC does not presently face competition in the mobile market, URCA considers that it is still important that adequate ex-ante safeguards are in place to guard against BTC engaging in practices that foreclose the market upon the introduction of mobile competition," said URCA.
URCA, the regulator for the two entities, said that the proposed revision of the retail pricing rules set out in April 2010 is intended to provide clarity and further guidance to the industry, to benefit those in The Bahamas with respect to the electronic communications sector, and to ensure that the rules process and requirements remain "compliant with the Communications Act".
Services provided by the two companies which are subject to the pricing rules include fixed telephone service and local calling, domestic long distance fixed calling, domestic calls to rated numbers, outgoing international long distance fixed calling, mobile access, local mobile calling, domestic long distance mobile calling, international long distance mobile calling, mobile data, and for CBL, SuperBasic TV service.
The regulatory authority is proposing to clarify information required for applications to change prices by the two operators, and to seek approval for new services in price regulated markets.
It also intends to revise the approach for assessing promotional exercises to "increase flexibility" offered to operators while ensuring that URCA can "still prevent anti-competitive promotions".
Meanwhile, the review intends to address issues such as what constitutes a "new service" being offered and issues relating to "non-price terms" such as contract length.
BTC and Cable Bahamas, along with others who may have an interest in the rules, are invited to respond to the outcome of URCA's consultation with the sector and its proposed changes to the retail pricing rules by December 6.
Love is already in the air. An elegant evening under the stars listening to the strumming of the strings of a classical guitar and the vocals of a sultry jazz performer come together to create the perfect pre-Valentine evening.World renowned classical guitarist Julian Byzantine, accompanied by double bassist Adrian D'Aguilar and vocalists Kim Welcome and Naomi Taylor have come together for the Strings and Stars on the Harbour concert on Saturday, February 4 at the stately"Lee Shore"on the East Bay Street foreshore at 7 p.m.
Byzantine will perform classic renditions with his contemporary style to create a breathtaking experience for music lovers. He has performed in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Argentina, and is being brought to perform in The Bahamas by the Lignum Vitae Centre of Hope.
Welcome and Taylor will bring the jazzy flavor to the night and mellow out the crowd with their soulful, calming performances.
"With love already in the air [as it's February], people are already looking for something different and romantic to do," says Anne Lever, organizer of the night of love and music appreciation."This is a great event for the music lover and the socially conscious person because it will be classy, elegant and different. We have a wonderful evening of dining, music and mingling that will be the perfect setting for those looking for a night out."
The music will be the highlight of the night and the culinary delights that will be put out by Citrus CateringâEUR^will be remembered. The menu is brimming with exciting dishes like grilled wahoo and beef, and an assortment of salads and hors d'oeuvres. Special bite-sized chocolate treats by chocolatier Coco Plum will also add an extra flavor to the night. A complimentary glass of champagne will also be distributed among guests. Whole bottles will be available for purchase for those who want to take the party home.If champagne is not your thing, a cash bar will be open throughout the evening.
Lever says that those who want to start the season of love off right should be at this event, which she anticipates will be a hit because it goes beyond the normal weekend event. She says it will be something to savor and appreciate one moment at a time.
"I am excited because this will be quite a different event.âEUR^We are planning for a very relaxed atmosphere, and the elegant setting will be the perfect backdrop to everything. What will make it all the more special is that the proceeds will fund the Lignum Vitae Centre for Hope, a two-year-old, nonprofit organization that specializes in assisting already existing companies in sustainability and successfully networking with one another. So it will be for a good cause and people will have a really good time."
Lever says people should want to come out to this romantic weekend if they are looking for something different and out of the ordinary to do. She says there will be lots of positivity and opportunity to network as well at the exciting night that will set the tone for the rest of this month of love.
A night under the stars would be the perfect escape for Janet Carey, who said after almost 25 years of marriage to her husband Kenneth, finding new ways to show their love is vital.
"Love should never be boring and the same old thing. So I really look forward for things that will allow my husband and I to get out of the house and away from work, kids and grandkids. It's so refreshing to have time to enjoy your significant other without too much of a fuss. I like even more that it is not actually on Valentine's Day, which is when everyone is making a mad dash to all the good romantic events. So it's nice that it's about music, fine dining and having a good time. This is perfect for me," she said.
Stars and Strings
When: Saturday, February 4
Where: Lee Shore
Time: 7 p.m.
Dress code: Island chic
For tickets, telephone 676-9240, 393-2046 or 364-0690.
Local and international dancers and musicians will converge for the “Love That Child” benefit concert to be held on Sunday, January 15, 2012 at the Rainforest Theatre, Wyndham Nassau Resort. All proceeds will directly benefit the Ranfurly Homes for Children and the Bahamas Children’s Emergency Hostel.
It is with some relief that we now know that not even the director of the National Insurance Board (NIB), Algernon Cargill, can schedule a meeting with the prime minister. Since the elections, this government has not been as available as it should to local Bahamian businesses and the greater Bahamian public.
But just what has this government been doing that has kept it so busy?
First it was the transition period upon the change in government. Of course, some delay was anticipated as ministries took new leadership. However, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was in power five years previously. The transition should have taken place efficiently. Then it was the North Abaco By-Election - the overly dramatized campaign to secure the former prime minister's constituency.
Finally, after October 15 there was some hope that the government would be moving forward with business. Yet, the November 1 announcement of a gambling referendum on December 3 initiated a highly controversial public debate on a referendum with no details released. Discourse on gambling has momentarily stalled since the government announced a referendum delay to January 28.
And now we are entering the height of the Christmas season. Attempts to meet with government officials before the end of the year will likely be all but futile.
How then does a business or individual meet with a minister in a reasonable amount of time?
As Cargill did, many businesses submit a formal written request for a meeting to the Office of the Prime Minister. And many like Cargill receive no response; or if lucky a response, but no definitive meeting date. Unfortunately, such a scenario is not limited to the Office of the Prime Minister; it is repeated across the ministries.
Secretaries indicate that they must meet with a minister to confirm his schedule. Understandably, it is wise to converse with a minister about the potential meeting attendee(s), its subject and date. But when follow-up written requests and telephone calls are met with the same answer that the minister must be consulted some two weeks later, it is hard to believe that his assistant has not had time to speak with him.
Central to this plague of unavailability is the lack of a cohesive communication technology program used by the government. We are nearing 2013 and government employees use webmail programs such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and others. Administrative assistants and secretaries should be delegating ministers' schedules through shared calendars. It is a secretary's job to know when the minister is available and unavailable or to at least reasonably ascertain when he will or will not be in office.
Or is it simply that the government wants to meet only with those Bahamians and companies who can afford to exert countless wasted hours trying to confirm a meeting?
Government officials must make a concerted effort to commit to meeting dates in a reasonable period of time. So far, this government has shown inadequate commitment to members of the Bahamian business community who are unable to connect with their government representatives.
Understandably, our government ministers are kept extremely busy and last minute travel may often arise. But when the delays become so long and continued communication a tedious effort, many simply give up and never receive any further government communication.
The Bahamas seeks to increase foreign direct investment and is positively perceived for the ease of doing business. However, continued failure in communication efforts and indifference to meeting commitments is a dangerous approach that will deter potential investors.
Businesses will not be deterred by a meeting date set a month or two in advance; a business simply does not have the time or money to waste constantly following-up and rescheduling. Being ignored and run-around should not be part of normal operating procedures in government, yet we find it is.
Can you imagine your life without the use of the internet or a cellphone? Probably not! Emails and other electronic devices have become such critical vehicles for communicating and doing business, that it is hard to imagine how we ever lived without them. Unfortunately, as great as the Internet and other electronic devices may be, they have also become vehicles for scams, viruses and more recently in the workplace, a tool used by employees to engage in character assassination of each other via social networks, online harassment and cyberstalking.
Last week I sat in horror and listened as one of my international clients relayed a story that was so mind blowing, I felt like I was watching a cloak-and-dagger espionage movie! Obviously the story is too long to relay in this forum, but here is the abridged version. My client was a victim of email spoofing! Exactly! I didn't know what is was either but apparently email spoofing "is the forgery of an email header so that the message appears to have originated from someone or somewhere other than the actual source." In other words someone could send an email pretending to be you, and the receiver would have no reason to believe that it was not you, because the sender would be using your email address! Yep it could happen! Needless to say my client was in the hot seat and almost lost her job when she was confronted by the president of the company for supposedly sending mass emails to the entire staff highlighting the fact that he (the president) was "clueless, incompetent, lacked vision and was running the company into the ground." Luckily for my client, someone in the information technology department decided to run a trace on the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the email and was able to track it to its real sender - a disgruntled employee who was recently demoted - go figure!
Having been a victim of online harassment and cyberstalking myself recently, (and for those of you who may not know what cyberstalking is, ladies and gentlemen "cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization. It may include false accusations, monitoring, making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sex, or gathering information in order to harass. The definition of 'harassment' must meet the criterion that a reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would regard it as sufficient to cause another reasonable person distress." Wikipedia) I knew exactly what my client was going through.
So this week I interviewed Royal Bahamas Police Force Cyber Crimes guru, Sergeant Dale Strachan, to shed some light on this growing problem. Here is what he had to say:
Question: Have you seen a rise in cyber crimes in The Bahamas, for example on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks?
Answer: Yes. We have seen a rise in cyber crime in the following areas:
i. Threats of harm or death;
ii. Emailing of slanderous images or comments;
iii. Email hacking;
iv. A crime called phishing (where a website is created to look like the original, but it is actually a fraud). This fake site is use to gather personal information from unsuspecting persons to defraud them of money. Complaints are mainly from foreign victims reporting that a financial institution in The Bahamas posted the site.
Question: Why do you believe we are experiencing such a spike in cyber crimes? What seem to be the motive(s) of the perpetrators?
Answer: The fact that the perpetrator thinks his/her identity will remain anonymous seems to be the driving force. Ultimately the perpetrator's intent is to embarrass the victim or put him or her in fear.
Question: Is sending malicious or defamatory emails a crime in The Bahamas? Define malicious, define defamatory.
Answer: Yes both are crimes. Malicious is defined as nasty, hateful, mean, wicked, cruel emails continually being sent to the annoyance of the receiver. Also referred to as annoying email, malicious emails are similar to a common offence known as annoying telephone calls. We can add that emails threatening or implying harm or death are also an offence and amount to threats of harm or threats of death. Defamatory is defined as slanderous, derogatory emails that are distributed to others and used as a vehicle to attack a person's character.
Question: What recourse does the receiver of malicious or defamatory emails have? Can they seek police help?
Answer: Depending on the offence committed, victims have the following recourse:
o Police action can be taken;
o You can have the person bond over to keep the peace;
o You can take civil action in a court or file a lawsuit;
o You can report the email address of the sender to the hosting company as abuse and it will be removed.
Question: How can you track the sender of a malicious email?
Answer: The sender is tracked by the header information (contained in the original email.)
Question: What suggestions can you give persons to safeguard their email accounts?
Answer: Many persons in The Bahamas reported that their email accounts were hacked. Our investigation proved that the following methods were used to obtain their personal information:
o Individuals received a "pop up" asking them to reset their password information. The "pop up" claimed that if the password was not reset that the individual would loose his/her account. Once the password is reset hackers have full access to your account.
o Individuals received a "pop up" asking for personal information, specifically the question that was used when you created your account. Once you answer these questions you give hackers access to your account
o Using a public computer: When you "log off" of a public computer, persons can come after you, run password recovery software and extract your information.
o Using computers at a friend's house or the work place, to access you email account: Again the password can be extracted using recovery software. In the workplace many companies have software installed on computers that monitor employee action online. This software also captures password information.
o Your wireless network: When you put a password on a website wirelessly, anyone with access to your network also has access to all of the computers on that network and they can "sniff" traffic to capture your password.
o Be aware of putting other people's jump drives in your computer. These jump drives may contain programs that auto run with one purpose - to extract all password information that might reside on you computer.
o Do not accept the browser's suggestion to save a password.
o Set the cache on your browser to delete on exit.
Stacia Williams offers keynotes, workshops and personal coaching on a wide range of: Personal Branding, Image Management, Customer Service, Leadership, Business Etiquette & International Protocol Topics. You can contact Stacia Williams at 325-5992 or email Stacia@totalimagemanagement.com or visit staciawilliamsblog.com.
COMMUNICATION ON CLICO (BAHAMAS) LIMITED BY RT. HON. HUBERT INGRAHAM, PRIME MINISTER & MINISTER OF FINANCE
The purchase of four Florida companies by Cable Bahamas will lay the foundation for further expansion through acquisitions in the U.S. market, the company has stated.
In a proxy form issued to shareholders ahead of an extraordinary general meeting to seek approval for the deal, the company said it expects the $99.7 million transaction to allow it room to expand its market share in ways that it can no longer do in the Bahamian market, while gaining an additional boost from the further bounce back of the Florida economy...