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The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) took its 'Gold Rush' back to Grand Bahama on Saturday night, going head to head with the Free National Movement (FNM) on an island that has suffered economic hardships under both PLP and FNM administrations.
"When I visit with you, I hear words like 'ghost town' and 'devastated' and 'abandoned'," Christie said.
"I hear about the jobs lost and a crime problem growing bigger than anyone could have imagined."
As he has done during numerous political events on the 2012 campaign trail thus far, the former prime minister again placed the blame for the country's economic problems at the feet of the current administration, and noted that unemployment is now above 20 percent in Grand Bahama.
"And don't let them hide behind that global recession, Bahamas," Christie said.
"Of course the recession affected The Bahamas. But the FNM made that recession worse.
"They've borrowed hundreds of millions for infrastructure - but look at all those Bahamian contractors who sat on the side while foreign contractors and foreign workers benefitted.
"They've put politics instead of people first again and again - delaying projects because they were started by my government - so people lost jobs and the economy slowed."
Christie also again blamed the Ingraham administration for the high crime rate in the country.
"When people don't feel safe going out at night, it hurts the economy," he said.
"When small businesses have to spend on security, it makes them less competitive, and it hurts the economy.
"When the U.S. embassy tells U.S. citizens - as it did in an e-mail warning sent out this week - to watch out in The Bahamas for staged traffic accidents that turn into robberies - you don't think that affects our economy? Of course it does."
Christie said the FNM government also hurt the economy by raising taxes while other nations understood that in tough times, "you give citizens tax relief, not tax hikes that drive businesses into the ground and destroy jobs".
The PLP leader again pledged that if the PLP is successful in the election, his administration would cut departure taxes at the Grand Bahama airport and harbor and cut hotel taxes too.
"We're going to promote local entertainment and markets and festivals, and provide incentives for airlift and charters," he said.
"We're not just going to expand tourism here, we're going to expand Bahamian ownership within tourism.
"Those of you who want to open small bed-and-breakfasts or boutique hotels deserve access to affordable start-up costs and affordable credit, and you deserve technical training and marketing support."
Christie pledged also -- as he has done in recent months -- to create jobs in Grand Bahama and the country and make a massive investment in education and training.
He said the PLP would upgrade schools in the country, making them more energy efficient.
The PLP has committed to doubling the education budget.
Grand Bahama's annual Auto Show, presented by the New Car Federation, is making a move to the Circle Mall for 2012. The 7th Annual Auto Show was planned for October 27th but was moved due to the untimely appearance of Hurricane Sandy.
"We definitely felt we made the right decision about postponing," said Larry Albury, Freeport Jet Wash general manager. "We are very energized about our move to the mall, where we will have more room, be under cover, and attendees will also be able to shop, have lunch and keep their children entertained, all while buying a new car."
Supporting the annual Auto Show will be new car sales company Quality Auto, who like Jet Wash, has attended each event. "Over the past three years we have discontinued importing vehicles with large engines," said Karl Martin, general manager of GB Quality Auto Sales. "Due to the simple fact that the average market consumer, to whom the bulk of vehicles are sold, cannot afford these automobiles due to the high initial cost, because of high import duty rates and day-to-day running costs."
"Rather, we have switched our focus to reliable, energy efficient, attractively priced and styled 2.0 liter vehicles. These cars have lower import duties and the market response has been good. We are not in the business of selling what we want to sell, but listening to and selling what the market desires."
Both dealers feel it's a good time to buy a car, especially with the unique advantages that new cars bring. These include more model choices, colors and features, as well as the security of a 2-3 year warranty and qualified mechanics to work on your vehicle choice. "Our 2013 models have totally changed," noted Albury. "Smaller engines with much better fuel efficiency will be the big advantage for the consumer this year."
Helping with financial assistance to get consumers in these cars will be local banks including Bank of The Bahamas, Commonwealth Bank, Scotiabank, RBC Royal Bank of Canada, CIBC FirstCaribbean and the Grand Bahama Co-operative Credit Union. Comparison shopping will be at its easiest, with all the banks in one location.
Long-time attendee Marvin Adderley,a loan manager from CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, noted that he and his team "will be offering good terms on the car of your choice." He added "that most of Grand Bahama is not aware of what the stores in the mall have to offer. The combination of what the mall stores have, along with the deals to be had from the Auto Show, should make for an interesting weekend."
This is a sentiment agreed to by many as the support for the Auto Show this year has been very strong. "We have been pleasantly surprised by the support we have received for the event this year," said Whitfield Bain, sales manager for Quality Auto Sales in Grand Bahama. "Maintaining this event is very important to the New Car Federation of Grand Bahama and this year is no exception."
This year three insurance companies will be on hand offering quotes for potential buyers. Insurance Management, Star General and new attendee Nassau Insurance Brokers Agency (NIBA) have all signed up for Saturday's event. Well-known retailer Furniture Plus, taking advantage of the opportunity to meet and connect with new customers, will also be present.
Mall owner Hannes Babak is looking forward to the event. "We had our official opening a few weeks ago and now we welcome one of Grand Bahama's largest events," said a very pleased Babak. "The store owners in the Circle Mall are looking forward to a busy day on Saturday and we hope everyone will stop by."
Construction of the $6 million Devonshire Place development, located in western New Providence, is expected to be completed by year's end.
Devonshire Place, which is just down the street from the upcoming $3.5 billion Baha Mar, is marketed to young professionals as there continues to be limited options for this demographic.
The 20-unit development will consist of two and three-bedroom units starting at $239,000, making Devonshire Place Nassau's newest affordable gated community.
Ryan Knowles, a real estate agent at H.G. Christie Limited, revealed to Guardian Business that the response to the development from potential buyers has been "totally incredible". He believes its success so far speaks to the developer's reputation and the demand in the market.
"It's very rare in The Bahamas that a development is able to get pre-sales before any work has begun on construction activity. Bahamians usually want to see, touch and feel before they make a decision, sign a contract or make a deposit," Knowles pointed out.
"We have been able to sell out nearly half of the development before work even hit the ground, so I think that's pretty remarkable."
He confirmed that the land has been cleared at Devonshire Place and developers are preparing to break ground soon. Knowles called the development "exciting".
"It's midway between the old City Market and current Super Value location on Cable Beach. It is tucked away, three streets away from the main road. Obviously, it's close enough to the beach, shopping, restaurants, the clinic, and the gas station in Sandyport. In a year-and-a-half, you will have the excitement of Baha Mar so this development is really in the heart of the action," he noted.
In addition to all 20 units being end units, all will be outfitted with LED lighting.
"Every unit is an end unit, which gives every unit lots of light and additional windows. One special feature is that you have LED lighting throughout. With LED lighting, obviously it's going to be very energy efficient because it does not pull a lot of power and has the ability to keep the place really cool," according to Knowles.
I think that's pretty trendsetting, especially for a product in this price point. You normally see LED lighting in higher-end homes. To be able to achieve that at a $239,000 price point, that's really commendable."
Meantime, the company's vice president John Christie shared with Guardian Business he believes the western New Providence development will have a positive impact on the real estate market.
"Especially with Baha Mar coming, the timing is right. I think they should be able to sell fairly well. Once Baha Mar gets going, the value of property will increase over the next few years. Over the years, the prices have come down so it's a good time to buy as we move out of the recession," he added.
In its 2007 Manifesto, the Free National Movement (FNM) promised to "facilitate the construction of 3,000 affordable homes", but when the Ingraham administration took office, that number was reduced to 600.
The very first pledge the FNM made in its Manifesto for housing was to "facilitate the construction of 3,000 affordable homes by providing either fully-serviced lots and/or newly constructed houses."
Not long after the government was elected, a different promise was made.
The government revealed the change of plans in the Speech from the Throne, which was read on May 23, 2007 by then Governor General A.D. Hanna.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Housing Brensil Rolle explained that the promise was re-evaluated as soon as the government saw the amount of work that needed to be done.
"We did not expect the amount of work that was not completed," he said.
"We met $24 million worth of incomplete work, renovations, or infrastructure work. The $24 million included back pay to contractors and infrastructure work that had to be completed.
"We determined after we were elected that we had to address the matters that were outstanding and as a result we had to adjust.
"Basically when we came to office, for example, there was no infrastructure in Pride Estates subdivision in New Providence and there were a number of complaints from homeowners about repairs and tacky work.
"So we determined to address those immediate problems. But because no provision was made to address the completion of those works, it remained outstanding."
Rolle said during the government's first year in office the Ministry of Housing's resources were used in addressing those issues and problems. He said the government spent $4 million on that effort, which is another promise that was contained in the manifesto.
So far the government has facilitated the construction of 725 houses, according to officials. Another 150 houses are under construction.
In total, the FNM made 17 promises related to housing, most of which were kept.
According to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing Loraine Armbrister, among those that the government fulfilled was its promises to reduce the down payment required for the government guaranteed home mortgage to five percent of the total cost; make crown land available to Bahamians at concessionary rates; create additional residential subdivisions in New Providence and the Family Islands and require that all new construction comply with the Town Planning and Building Control Regulations.
The government has also fulfilled its promise to promote the use of energy efficient construction practices and tackled the problems associated with ghetto communities by acting to systematically reduce substandard living, according to Armbrister, who pointed out that the government has cleared down several shantytowns.
Most recently, the government cleared Mackey Yard, which was home to hundreds of people, most of whom were Haitian nationals.
"We have done a lot of that in terms of the regularization of squatters," Armbrister said.
"We moved persons who were living in squalor. They now have the opportunity to purchase houses that are in compliance with the building codes. Now that they have upgraded their means, it allows other people to maintain their property value."
She added that the Bahamians who lived on those properties were given the opportunity to purchase homes at a minimal rate.
Both Armbrister and Rolle admitted that some promises have yet to be fulfilled -- For example, the promise to ensure that proper drainage, waste disposal, electricity and potable water supply are in place prior to the construction of homes.
Armbrister said that work is being done while the house are being constructed.
The FNM also promised to create landscape and maintain recreational and/or open green spaces in the residential subdivisions.
"At this time we are focusing on completing houses but we do intend to develop green spaces," she said.
Armbrister added that the government has already identified several locations that will be transformed into parks.
But there are ongoing challenges with some government-built houses.
"Just recently we found out that termites have taken over some of those homes," Rolle said. "So we now have to address that."
He could not provide figures on the number of homes impacted. However, Rolle said it is a 'significant' number.
Asked how he thinks the Ministry of Housing has performed since the FNM came to power in 2007, Rolle said, "We spent over $100 million in housing development... We have lowered the cost of down payment to homeowners.
"When you reduce the cost of homeownership and down payments, that would allow more persons to get homes. When you put in every savings mechanism, grant homes on a fair basis and when you repair their homes because they have issues, people are grateful."
Marsh Harbour, Abaco - Commonwealth Bank today announced the major expansion project
of its Marsh Harbour, Abaco Branch.
Coastline Construction Abaco Limited was awarded the $3 million dollar
contract to which when completed in the fourth quarter 2011 will transform the
existing structure by adding an additional 6,000 sq. feet. The extension of-the branch, which
borders Queen Elizabeth Drive, Davidson Street and Bay Street in Marsh Harbour,
is a direct response to customer demands.
The newly completed branch will be 10,000 square feet in size and
feature the Bank's signature design and amenities - gray exterior with white
trim, a spacious customer-friendly
lobby in gray and pink marble and granite, energy efficient components,
convenient customer parking and handicap access...