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By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE BAHAMAS' merchandise trade deficit increased year-over-year by 6.02 per cent to $2.241 billion in 2010, data published by the Department of Statistics has revealed, despite exports growing at a slightly higher rate than imports.
The merchandise trade deficit, which measures the difference between the Bahamas' total exports of physical goods and imports, rose in dollar terms by $127.3 million in 2010, growing from $2.114 billion to $2.241 billion.
While the Bahamas' total exports rose by $36.5 million or 6.24 per cent, from $584.9 million to $621.4 million, total imports grew by 6.07 per cent - growing from $2.699 billion in 2009 to $ ...
The governor of The Central Bank of The Bahamas has said she is "unaware of how" a senior economist with RBC Royal Bank calculated a critical statistic and determined Bahamian external reserves are at a "critical" level.
Responding to emailed inquiries sent by Guardian Business in light of comments by Marla Dukharan, RBC group economist for the Caribbean, indicating that The Bahamas' "import cover" levels are the lowest in the region, Central Bank of The Bahamas Governor Wendy Craigg said this is not accurate.
The governor suggested that Dukharan seemed to have failed to take into account the "significant foreign direct investment activity in The Bahamas", which is accompanied by a boost in related imports, such as in the case of Baha Mar.
"We are unaware of how Ms. Dukharan calculated this very important statistic, which the Central Bank monitors on an ongoing basis, along with other key reserve adequacy indicators," said Craigg. "However, one has to be very careful about the use of the import data in the balance of payments statistics to calculate this indicator of reserve adequacy.
"It cannot be ignored that whenever there is significant foreign direct investment activity in The Bahamas, this is accompanied by a corresponding boost in imports utilized in the completion of these projects.
"A current case in point is the Baha Mar project, which has sizeable imports of both goods and services, which are clearly not funded by the country's external reserves, but by foreign resources, which are captured in the capital account.
"As such, one cannot simply take the import figure and use it to calculate the import cover ratio - a point which was acknowledged by the IMF in The Bahamas' 2012 Article IV report.
"When imports were adjusted for these FDI-related transactions, the import reserve cover stood at approximately four months (16 weeks) at end-2012, and we know that projects such as Baha Mar continue to have a major impact on imports throughout 2013."
In a presentation to Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) members on Wednesday on value-added tax (VAT), Dukharan made the case that such tax reform is critical at this juncture for The Bahamas, if the country is to avoid much more painful and possibly externally-imposed adjustments in the future.
She said The Bahamas' level of external reserves equates to just seven weeks of import cover - the lowest in the region and behind "international prudential benchmarks" of 12 weeks. Dukharan linked this "structural current account deficit" to a "primary fiscal deficit" that sees The Bahamas borrowing to pay the interest on existing debt - a situation which she suggested has the possibility to cause Bahamian debt-to-GDP to "spiral" into the zone where it breaches the "debt sustainability" threshold and increased borrowings only cut back on growth.
In her response, Craigg said that while there has "admittedly" been very little rebuilding of Bahamian foreign reserves this year due to weak tourism performance and the impact of the Baha Mar project on reserve levels, the bank takes note of the fact that Baha Mar's domestic benefits "are expected to come at the back-end" and proposed that reserve levels are experiencing a "normal seasonal dip as inventories are being replenished".
"Reserves currently stand at $704.8 million or approximately 14.2 weeks of import cover, and we expect to maintain a comfortable level through the end of the year."
The governor added: "Clearly, these continue to be very challenging times for small economies like The Bahamas, as is also the case for many large economies, where growth conditions remain tepid. Just recently, we had this outlook confirmed by the IMF, which lowered its forecast for a number of economies, The Bahamas included. Despite the dimmer prospects, however, we remain in the positive, although mild, growth zone, which compares favorably with many of our regional counterparts."
Shannon Butler, who was arguably one of the brightest minds to graduate high school in 2013, has completed his one-year university foundation program in the British pre-med system and is now eager to commence his medical school studies in September.
"I'm really excited to start medical school so that I can finally begin what I love," said Shannon, the 2013 All-Bahamas Merit Scholar, who aspires to become a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Shannon, who is at home for summer break, finished his first year at St. Andrew's University in Scotland with grades that he said were satisfactory. Shannon took organic and biological chemistry, human biology, introduction to medicine, statistics, academic English and medical ethics in his second semester and finished the year with a lot of distinctions in individual classes, and the program in its entirety with honors. In the British system, everything is graded on a 20-point scale -- grades of 17 and above are classified as distinction, grades from 14-16.9 are upper second-class honors, 11 to 13 lower second and anything below an 11 a failure.
In September he will enter the six-year medical program that he says is perfect for people who know that they only want to study medicine.
"It avoids all of the extraneous requirements of other systems where you have to get a bachelor's degree and do lots of hours of research and community service, and you always try to have the top grade point average (GPA) and all of that stuff," said Shannon.
Even though the study habits he had adopted held up through his first year at university, he's anticipating that things will now have to change for him as he enters the rigorous program.
"With medical school you don't really have much coursework and many assessments -- it's really all about studying. I was actually reading the student handbook a few days ago and for my first year, in both semesters, I only have two assessments -- a mid-term that is 25 percent and my final exams which are 75 percent -- so basically this upcoming year it's going to be studying every single day."
After his first semester at university he had described the experience and adjustment as tough. He was homesick. His second semester was a different experience. He returned to the campus adjusted and with a solid group of friends. He experienced less homesickness and felt more at home in Scotland that he said resulted in an experience that was more enjoyable for him.
"I knew the ropes so things got a bit easier for me. I started out not liking the place that much, but now I'm actually excited to return to Scotland," said Shannon.
He's not only eager to return to his studies, but to the town he's grown to love which he said has a "charm" that he did not realize it had when he first went there.
"I always wanted to be in a big city, but now I basically realize that I like the small town. I get to see a lot of people -- almost everyone that I know...professors, students, all around the town and it [town] has a lot of history and a lot of beauty to it with the pier and the beach, and even the wilderness and farms outside of it."
During his first year he extended his education beyond the classroom. He made the first of what he expects to be many sojourns over the next six years into Europe by visiting The Netherlands. In the period between the end of his exams and his first-year graduation, he and his friends visited Amsterdam. They took the train to the countryside to look at small towns and to view the famous Dutch windmills.
At home, Shannon is relaxing in preparation for his return to Scotland. After his first week at home, he lent his services to his former high school teacher for two weeks for a chemistry course work preparation class. Shannon helped the tenth grade students with course work, writing lab reports and conducting experiments.
For the remainder of the summer break he plans to relax to prepare himself for the upcoming medical program.
"I just want to hopefully relax and leave the work experience, the research and the internships all for next summer and all the summers after that," he said.
"Actually, the school does not encourage trying to prepare yourself for medical school, because it says all that studying will come in time, and actually as soon as you arrive. I spoke with a teacher of mine who actively encourages taking breaks when breaks are given."
Shannon said his reading this summer will be for his enjoyment. He is currently engrossed in a fantasy book.
Shannon amassed a total of $146,000 in scholarships to help fund his education -- the All-Bahamas Merit Scholar, a four-year $140,000 scholarship. He was also named the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity's 2013 valedictorian and awarded a $6,000 scholarship.
He's also known for his focus. The former Queen's College student in high school distinguished himself with an impressive academic record, having achieved 10 Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) awards with nine A grades and one B grade. The results earned him the award for the best BGCSE results in the country; the best results from an independent school student and the highest award in mathematics.
Shannon's advice to graduates who are preparing to transition into university life is to ensure that they attend a school that they really like, and to ensure that they pick a course of study that they like.
"Just make sure that you're in a healthy environment and be prepared to buckle down and do your work, pull all-nighters and study as much as necessary to get the grades that you need. But also try to genuinely enjoy yourself and have a great time," said the former Q.C. head boy and valedictorian.
While Minister of State for Social Development Loretta Butler-Turner said she does not dispute the accuracy of the Department of Statistics' Birth Report 1970-2010, she said the figures revealing a decrease in the amount of teenage mothers in the country just doesn't add up.
According to the report, the birth rate among teenage mothers (ages 10-19) dropped from 32.4 per 1,000 women in 1970 to 17.6 per 1,000 women in 2010.
The highest rate of teen mothers was 42 per 1,000 women in 1980 (1,085 mothers), and the lowest was in 2005 with 532 or 18 per 1,000 women.
"I don't know where that information came from because once again anecdotally, that doesn't add up to what I see from where I sit as the minister of state for social development," said Butler-Turner, who spoke with The Nassau Guardian via telephone yesterday.
"I'm not saying that it is incorrect, it just seems to paint a different picture from what I see coming across my desk."
The data compiled in the report, collected from 1970 to 2010, also indicated that Bahamian women are having fewer children.
In 1970 with a population of about 170,000, there were 4,894 births recorded in the country. In 2010, with a population of more than 340,000, there were 5,362 births recorded. The birth rate therefore fell from 28.8 per 1,000 persons in 1970 to 15.5 per 1,000 persons in 2010, a decrease of almost 50 percent.
Butler-Turner attributes this to the change in Bahamian ideology. "When you look at the makeup of traditional families, especially those with a professional makeup, you would see that people tend to plan their family life a lot more consistent with their economics and what they hope to do for their children," she said.
"Unlike my parents in their day who would have had seven children, couples today are opting for two, maybe a maximum of three children."
The birth rate among Haitian women in The Bahamas, however, has nearly doubled in the past 40 years. "The number of births grew from 7.2 percent in 1970, to an average of 13.7 percent by 2010," the report noted.
"The numbers have increased significantly because of migrant workers and illegal migrants, and in many instances once again you see these individuals who come here pregnant," Butler-Turner said. She continued, "If your numbers are declining for your indigenous persons and if you are being outpaced, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine what's happening there."
However, she said The Bahamas is not an overpopulated country.
"When you look at our land mass... we are in fact maybe an overpopulated island," Butler-Turner said. "In terms of The Bahamas' population versus its total land mass there is a lot of space for Family Island development and for population movement if that is what you are considering."
According to the report the data is based mainly on the annually registered birth records of the civil registry, and published vital statistics reports. All the rates are calculated on birth occurrences obtained from yearly censuses of births conducted by the Ministry of Health.
THE BAHAMAS recorded a significant decrease in births to teen mothers over the last four decades, according to a new report.
The Department of Statistics study said births to teenagers have dropped by 14 per cent, per thousand Bahamians.
However, the report also shows births to unwed mothers shot up over the same period by 33 per cent.
In a statement to the press, the department revealed the findings of its Births Report for the Bahamas, which focused on the reproductive trends and patterns of the country over a 40-year period.
It said: "The birth rate to teen mothers 10 to 19 years of age has decreased significantly, from a high of 32.4 in 1970 to a low of 17.6 births per 1,000 females ...
By ALISON LOWE
Agriculture could be generating $305 million per year towards Bahamian Gross Domestic Product (GDP), compared to the $40.2 million recorded in the most recent statistics, if proper reporting and recording of all agricultural outputs took place, a Department of Agriculture official said yesterday.
Leslie Minns, a statistician with the Department, said in his most recently-issued report on agriculture's contribution to the Bahamian economy that there has been "under-reporting" of agricultural output since the first census in 1978.
"Agriculture in the Bahamas is perceived as one of the sectors with little economic activit ...
The Bahamas has been listed as a "priority" by the United States government for assistance in the local crime fight, partly because of the local crime rate over the past several years, Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) official Shanna O'Reilly said yesterday.
The U.S. Embassy is funding the anti-violence and crime prevention initiative Resistance and Prevention Program (RAPP), which is being facilitated by the PADF.
The PADF has partnered with the Royal Bahamas Police Force to introduce the multi-year program to Bahamian officials. The initiative was launched at the Police Training College yesterday.
Crime statistics have fluctuated over the last few years. Despite a drop in crime for the first half of this year compared to 2013, crime numbers remain high.
O'Reilly said the program was uniquely designed for The Bahamas based on an extensive needs assessment.
"The Bahamas was one of the major priorities for the U.S. Embassy," she said following the opening ceremony for the program. "So that also went into the calculation."
Asked if the crime rate also factored in on the decision, O'Reilly said,"It was a part of the picture."
"The Bahamas is actually one of the countries that the U.S. government was very interested in prioritizing as well. So that was a big factor in that."
Twenty individuals from various Urban Renewal centers will go through the program. Following their completion of the program they will be accredited and will be able to teach others.
O'Reilly said the RAPP will build on what Urban Renewal is already doing.
"This 40-hour accreditation workshop is intended to prepare leaders to mentor, educate and encourage others and work with young people to take concrete actions that improve the future of the next generation," according to a statement detailing how the program will work.
"The workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to exchange experiences and discuss theoretical frameworks on social crime prevention, the root causes of youth crime and violence, gangs, organized crime, domestic violence, communication and action plans to address these issues.
"Ultimately, it will prepare participants to lead up to five day-long courses in crime prevention on a variety of topics covered in the instructor's manual and participant handbook, and serve as agents of change in the promotion of concrete crime prevention techniques through the use of action plans in targeted 'hot spots'-- areas with 5,000 or more residents -- that include the communities of Fox Hill, Kemp Road, Saint Cecilia, Pinewood Gardens, Farm Road, Bain and Grants Town, Nassau Village and Fort Charlotte."
Police said they have noted a "marked increase" in crime statistics involving youth. Police also said a large number of the murders in the country are carried out by young men.
The program will continue until Friday. Once completed, its organizers will draft and launch an action plan to ensure that participants make use of the tools they learn during the course.
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - At 64, Sheila Glinton does not have many options to make ends meet, especially in an economy that has been limping along for most of the past decade.
Glinton works as a part-time employee at a cigar shop in the International Bazaar.
What little she makes, she said she uses to pay her rent.
"I don't have light and I don't have water, but I'm...just paying [my] rent and the rent [isn't anything] much," Glinton said.
She said she lives off food stamps and the help of close friends.
And according to Glinton - who lives in Eight Mile Rock - there are many more just like her in the settlement.
She said many people use drop cords to get power.
The economic situation in Grand Bahama has become a key issue ahead of the approaching general election with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham promising to turn the economy around.
Progressive Liberal Party Leader Perry Christie is making the same promise, while accusing the current administration of failing Grand Bahamians.
Glinton's story is multiplied across the island, which has faced hard times long before the global economic maelstrom began impacting The Bahamas.
The island was hit by Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 and Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Hundreds lost their jobs when the Royal Oasis Hotel closed in 2004, and despite the property being sold and promises that it would be reopened, it remains a symbol of the pain and hardships that continue to characterize life for many Grand Bahamians.
For those feeling the downturn most, it is literally a struggle of survival, and only necessities are focused upon, according to Bishop Reno Smith, a 24-year resident of Grand Bahama.
"Family outings are a luxury now," Smith said.
"People aren't able to go to the movies like they used to. They aren't able to go to fast food restaurants and just basically enjoy themselves."
According to the latest labor force survey released by the Department of Statistics, unemployment on the island stands at 21.2 percent.
The survey, which was conducted in November 2011, also showed that jobless people who are no longer looking for work (discouraged workers) jumped 42 percent.
According to Smith, because of the jobless situation, many Grand Bahamians are being forced to make the toughest decisions of their lives, choices that could literally be life or death decisions.
"I know of a family; both persons are retired...It's up and down with them whether they should take their medication today or eat today, and when you get to that state, man it's terrible," he said.
However, according to the prime minister, as bad as the situation is on Grand Bahama, it could have been much worse were it not for actions taken by the government to cushion the blow.
At a Free National Movement event on the weekend, Ingraham said thousands more jobs would have been lost had the government not pumped millions of dollars in direct investment into the island's tourism sector.
But the government continues to face criticisms over the state of Grand Bahama's economy.
Attorney Osman Johnson, who is running for the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) in Pine Ridge, said the situation is "quite woeful".
"The cost of living on the island is too high," he said, adding that attracting investment to the island can be challenging.
"Persons are scared away effectively by the high prices we pay for energy, the high prices we pay for fuel and indeed a host of other associated costs which bring the cost of doing business to a point where it is prohibitive, and who really pays the price are our people, and that's the truth," Johnson said.
He added, "We are suffering on this island tremendously and we have been waiting and indeed we are tired of waiting, so we are calling upon them (the government) to take action - enough talk; the people require action."
When The Guardian visited the once popular International Bazaar on Saturday, fewer than 10 straw venders were open for business.
One of those vendors, Valerie Strachan, said business is bad.
According to Strachan, buses with tourists pass the Bazaar daily as they make their way to Port Lucaya, but never stop.
"The only thing that will bring this place back are prayers," said Strachan, who claimed she sometimes goes a week without making a single sale.
Department of Statistics is pleased to announce the release of its Births
Report for The Bahamas. This is
the first time the Department has produced in one volume an analyses of the
reproductive trends and patterns for the country over a forty year period.
1970, when the population of The Bahamas was about 170 thousand, women were
expected to have an average of four live born children throughout the
childbearing age. Four decades later, with a population more than doubled, the
number of children to women has decreased to two during their life time...
With the noise for the Bahamas to do something about its national debt reaching a crescendo, none of the three major political parties set to contest the 2012 general election inspire much confidence that they will be able to address the situation
Wall Street set the ball rolling. It gathered pace with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And by the time the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had finished, the momentum pushing the Bahamas to immediately deal with its growing national debt pile had become a runaway train.
None of this is surprising to astute observers. A look at the headline statistics shows reason for their concern: A $4.25 billion national debt that contin ...