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Nassau The Bahamas - Prime Minister and
Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie congratulated Albany
Bahamas, on September 3, 2012, for its expansion and the 650 jobs and
millions of dollars in revenue the property's new phase will be
producing in The Bahamas.
"It's one thing talking about a vision. It's quite another thing to
actually see it manifested and then to see the linkages that are being
established to make this a real total, integrated and, obviously, very
co-ordinated development going on here," Prime Minister Christie said
during the groundbreaking ceremony for the first three buildings of the
Marina Residences at Albany...
Investigations are ongoing to determine whether the Bahamas Electricity Corporation's (BEC) Clifton Pier Plant is the source of last week's oil spill in waters off southwestern New Providence, Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett said yesterday.
However, he noted that there are several other private companies that could very well be contributing to the "extraordinary" amount of fuel that was recently sighted.
In a communication in the House of Assembly, Dorsett reported that the government's response team and environmental consultants yesterday inspected all of the relevant properties, including BEC's Clifton Pier Plant.
He added that once investigations are complete, "... No one is going to be off the hook when it comes to doing what is right. Whether it is BEC or private stakeholders."
While not placing the blame on BEC, Dorsett revealed that BEC's containment booms at the Clifton Pier Plant have not been as effective as they should be.
"The BEC containment booms were not preventing all of the fuel emitted into the marine environment from spreading," he said. "It also appeared that fuel was being discharged from one of the outfalls."
Based on reports, Dorsett said a significant amount of oil washed ashore on Albany's beach and Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas' marina on Saturday.
However, Dorsett said initial reports indicate that Stuart Cove's officials discovered fuel in the canal area of their operation last Wednesday.
When asked by Long Island MP Loretta Butler -Turner what mitigation efforts the government intends to implement with regard to BEC, Dorsett said the government would take action.
"It is clear that those booms that were installed... were not containing all of the oil," he reiterated.
"So one of the things that the team is doing today (Monday) is assessing the possibility of putting in secondary containment booms and they will advise us on other strategies so that we ensure that we mitigate against any spreading of the oil in the environment which exists today.
"I do not want to make the representation in this House until we conduct the science to determine exactly where the oil is emanating from."
Dorsett added: "It's a huge industrial area. A lot of people use fuel and oil in that area. And to use the term of my technical team, the oil is like a cocktail with different mixtures.
"Once it is assessed, you can determine what it is made of. Some of it, more than likely, will be BEC. But I'm not excluding the fact that others may have contributed as well."
Dorsett acknowledged the presence of oil in southwestern New Providence is a long-time issue that has spanned over the last two decades.
"This is a huge problem which impacts our marine life, tourism and our environment," he said.
The government has retained international consultants from Coastal Systems International Inc., which is a U.S. environmental firm.
Dorsett said Coastal arrived in the country yesterday to assist in investigating and confirming the source or sources of the oil spill, assess the impact, address the mitigation of the spill, advise on the preparation of an environmental management plan for the area and make remediation recommendations to the government.
Members of the National Oil Spill Advisory Committee are also looking into the oil spill.
Executives at Bank of The Bahamas (BOB) are reporting an "overwhelming" response since the launch of its e-commerce platform.
Heralded as the first such program for businesses in the country, the local institution is adamant on performing due diligence during the approval process, resulting in long queues. More than a dozen businesses have signed on and received approval in the last three weeks, according to Ian Thompson, retail manager of sales, products and services.
But many more are on a waiting list as BOB sorts through the applications.
"We've had an overwhelming response, mostly from existing clients at the bank. We also see interest from the hotel sector, and a number of people from the boating sector. The bank has also engaged in discussions with the government and their entities," according to Thompson.
Security is a major focus for the local institution, he said.
The e-commerce platform was delayed for months as the bank tested and re-tested the platform. As the first of its kind in The Bahamas, capable of handling transactions using Bahamian dollars, executives are keen to get the concept right.
"We are taking our time with approvals," Thompson added. "But the gates are open. We've seen a lot of people interested in e-commerce, so we definitely have to be cautious. We welcome the business, and yet we don't want to take undue risk."
One area of particular focus, he explained, is signing up smaller hotels throughout The Bahamas. The e-commerce platform is expected to make transactions for these modest hoteliers far more efficient, giving hem greater exposure to an international marketplace.
Thompson revealed that BOB is also in active discussions with the government concerning the centralization of property tax collection.
An online portal would allow property owners to pay the tax in a few easy steps through a government website, he explained. The collection of property tax remains a major problem in The Bahamas, as successive governments tend to receive a fraction of what's owed.
The new Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration has pledged a crackdown on the collection process in a bid to boost revenue.
Manager of BOB's Card Center operations John Washburn agreed that e-commerce has received a "warm reception" at BOB.
He noted that the Marina Operators of The Bahamas (MOB) is considering an e-commerce product whereby members can take care of fees and even pay fuel bills in advance.
"We are looking to see how we can make it more efficient on both sides," Washburn said. "We'll give them a special rate, by managing them as a group and getting that exclusivity."
The criteria for setting up an e-commerce account includes a pre-existing website. Clients must also provide a "retention of funds" fee equivalent to roughly 10 percent of the monthly income. Washburn said two to five percent is charged to monthly transaction values. MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discovery cards are all supported by the platform.
The Bankers Bowling League recently continued with its season at Mario's Bowling and Family Entertainment Palace. Ricardo Rolle leads the men's category with a high average of 204. Last week, he steamrolled the pins for a three-game set of 679. David Slatter of Family Guardian Insurance Company and Tyrone Knowles of RBC are second and third with averages of 189 and 188 respectively. In the women's category, Driskell Rolle of the Bank of The Bahamas remains on top with an average of 192. She rolled a three-game set of 607 last week. Marina McClain of Central Bank of The Bahamas and Janice Hoyte of Fidelity Bank are tied for second with averages of 170. Overall, Ansbacher Bank stands in the top position, a half game lead over Central Bank. Commonwealth Bank rounds out the top three, and has a one-game lead over the fourth place team.
By SPORTS WRITER
For The Guardian
ABACO, The Bahamas--Treasure Cay Hotel Resort&Marina invites anglers to compete for trophies and cash prizes at the 28th Annual Treasure Cay Billfish Tournament, set for June 12-17, 2011, in Abaco, The Bahamas. This tournament follows the 2010 victory by Team Kilowett, from Lighthouse Point, Florida, when lady angler Lisa Flack won Top Angler, Top Lady Angler and other awards.
The modified release tournament offers four days of fishing, social parties, dinners and fun competitions. The guaranteed cash payout ranges from$10,000 for a minimum of 10 boats and up to$50,000 for participation of 50 boats.
Open to the public, the tournament format consists of mul ...
The first of 10 energy audits on small and mid-sized hotels and resorts in The Bahamas have revealed that the hotels can make significant savings through a variety of "no-cost, low-cost and investment cost initiatives", Guardian Business has learned.
Hotels that participated in the first round of the audit initiative include: Viva Wyndham and Pelican Bay on Grand Bahama; Pink Sands, Tingum Village, Romora Bay and Valentines Resort and Marina on Harbour Island and Sandals, Wyndham Nassau Beach, Comfort Suites and the Paradise Island Harbour Resort on Nassau-Paradise Island.
The audits are being conducted under the auspices of the CHENACT project, a major program which the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) and the Ministry of Tourism are undertaking with the support of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Caribbean Tourism Organization through support grants from the Inter-American Development Bank and other international donor agencies.
Noting that places still remain for hotels to get involved in the next phase of the project, which commences this fall, Frank Comito, BHTA executive vice president, said: "Participating hotels are providing room donations to help offset some of the estimated $3,000-$6,000 value of the audits and will receive detailed recommendations and be eligible for an upgrade grant through the project."
He added that by the end of the year, a minimum of an additional 20 detailed hotel audits will be undertaken throughout The Bahamas.
"The findings in their aggregate will be shared with all BHTA members to assist them with lowering energy costs."
The CHENACT project was launched in February 2013 with the aim of helping the small and medium sized hotels - hotels with fewer than 400 rooms - achieve better financial sustainability and promote energy conservation in their operations.
The ultimate goal will be to improve the competitiveness of small and medium sized hotels through improved use of energy, with the emphasis on Renewable Energy and Micro-Generation.
Additionally, there will be positive impacts to the environment in terms of reductions in greenhouse gases and ozone layer depletion if hotels are able to reduce their energy usage.
In a recent release, the BHTA noted that energy costs average 15 to 20 percent of a Bahamian resort's overall costs, a figure which cannot be sustained without a negative impact on competitiveness.
Declaring that tourism is on the upswing in Eleuthera, Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday that phase one of the Cotton Bay development in South Eleuthera is 75 percent complete and the developers have already invested $90 million to date.
"The resort aims to re-establish the legacy of the jet-setting families of the 50s, 60s and 70s that frequented the club community, making them homes away from home," said Christie at the Eleuthera Business Outlook at Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina.
"Cotton Bay will feature world-class golf courses that will attract golf enthusiasts from the world over. It will offer luxurious amenities, including two oceanfront hotel sites managed by Noble House Hotels and Resorts.
"To continue to enhance tourism on the island and support the Cotton Bay development, particular attention will be given to airlift in South Eleuthera."
The prime minister said Cotton Bay is a good example of a development that attracted the interest and investment of Bahamians. Franklyn Wilson serves as chairman of Eleuthera Properties Ltd.
Christie also reported, "We are well advanced in our negotiations with the Samiento and Four Seasons interests for a Four Seasons branded luxury resort also here in South Eleuthera.
"My professional advisors will meet again next week with Four Seasons representatives with a view to wrapping up the terms of a Heads of Agreement for approval by the National Economic Council."
Christie said from January to December 2013 a total of 249,017 visitors came to Eleuthera.
"However, I feel that we can improve on this number and will improve on it with the development of a few new resorts on the island," he said.
Christie said that as an island, Eleuthera continues to embrace its role as a leader in hospitality and position itself for major revitalization.
That revitalization has already begun, with developments such as The Cove, and Eleutherans are reaping the benefits, he said.
"However, there is much more that is being done to ensure significant growth in Eleuthera, and the government is continuously working to make Eleuthera a first choice destination for tourists, both foreign and domestic," Christie said.
"While the government will necessarily play a pivotal role going forward, there is no question that dedicated efforts must also be deployed by the private sector to further the development of Eleuthera's economy and community."
Christie said as Eleuthera grows, the right course must be charted for responsible engagement with these treasures. Such beauty should not and must not be spoiled in the name of advancement.
The prime minister encouraged Bahamians with roots in Eleuthera to build second homes and to resettle in Eleuthera.
"We see this happening in places like Governor's Harbour, Palmetto Point, Windermere and other parts of the Island," he said.
"In addition to building homes there are business opportunities to be embraced and community programs in which to become engaged."
Pointing to the ongoing development of the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) in North Andros, the prime minister said this revitalization of farming is meant to impact all islands.
"In Eleuthera, we are looking to reintroduce large scale production of the world-famous sugarloaf pineapple," he said.
"This revitalization will help to significantly impact the Eleutheran economy and it will also support a thriving tourism economy.
"In fact, the revitalization of farming can go a long way in supporting all types of tourism. In the story of the sugarloaf, there are exact reasons why the pineapple export failed, all having to do with the cost of production.
"We hope to find innovative ways of mitigating costs and modern ways of increasing production to meet the demands of smaller hotels and resorts.
"Specifically, my government would like to see and support the re-establishment and re-imagining of the pineapple industry in Eleuthera. And we would like similar re-visioning to be done for all agriculture in Eleuthera."
He said while the course for tourism is set and bodes well for the economy of Eleuthera, there are other developments and changes that will and must happen to ensure growth in Eleuthera.
The building of a new hospital in Palmetto Point will go a long way in serving and supporting the immediate community and populations for the whole Island, the prime minister said.
He said the land has already been acquired with plans being drawn for a hospital that meets local and international standards.
"This should provide a boost for meeting the basic medical needs of residents and visitors alike," Christie added.
"While we work towards an economic renaissance in Eleuthera, we must remember that the pineapple is the symbol of hospitality throughout the world.
"As a significant part of engaging the hospitality community in the revitalization of Eleuthera, the government's National Training Programme is gearing up to train locals.
"This program will help to facilitate the education and skills development of the workforce with extensive training initiatives and standardization of service levels. Upon successful completion, persons will be provided with valid certification."
The prime minister declared, "With help from the government, public private partnerships and significant investment from both Bahamians and foreigners, this island is on a course headed for major economic growth. For this growth we require the cooperation of the entire Eleutheran community to stay the course."
As the government moves full speed ahead with its intention to implement value-added tax (VAT), a leading hotelier said he would have preferred a sales tax and is urging the government to delay the implementation date for VAT.
In an interview with Guardian Business, Atlantis President and Managing Director George Markantonis said for the Paradise Island property, implementing a sales tax would be "easier" than implementing VAT. He made this suggestion as uncertainty still looms about the latter form of taxation.
"We all understand it and the whole world has done it (sales tax). And more importantly for us, our computer systems would be able to take those changes," he said.
While the government has proposed a general VAT rate of 15 percent, the hotel sector will be subject to a lower rate of 10 percent. Markantonis has estimated that his company will have to spend at least $500,000 on technology to implement VAT.
Markantonis is not the only one suggesting that a sales tax be implemented instead of VAT.
Numerous members of the business community, such as President of the Bahamas Motor Dealers Association Fred Albury, and Super Value President Rupert Roberts, have also touted such an alternative as a simpler alternative to VAT.
Meanwhile, Pedro Delaney, a chartered accountant and chief financial officer at Societe Generale Private Banking (Bahamas) Ltd. and SG Hambros Bank and Trust (Bahamas) Ltd., recently said the government should consider other forms of taxation such as a corporate income tax, which he believes would be easier to implement.
"When you consider income taxes, there are personal income taxes as well as corporate income taxes. Corporate taxes may be an easier measure to implement if we are going to address income taxes. The government may in considering that want to consider a flat rate for corporations on their net income," he noted.
The government, however, has pointed to the more "regressive" nature of a sales tax, which does not allow for credits for tax paid on inputs, and therefore becomes "a tax on a tax". Officials have also suggested the credit mechanism under VAT would increase compliance with the tax regime.
Atlantis' top executive is urging the government to postpone the July 2014 implementation to allow for more preparation time. In the meantime, Markantonis confirmed that Atlantis plans to hire consultants to help it understand the ins and outs of VAT and the impact it could have. He maintains that his biggest concern is the possibility of The Bahamas outpricing itself as a destination.
"We're not sure how it's going to impact us spread across our campus because we have multiple business units and revenue streams. They're not all what it would be in a typical hotel. Is Marina Village, which has four of our restaurants, part of the hotel or not? How do the dolphins fall into this picture? There are a lot of factors you have to look at," he told Guardian Business.
"We're not going to eat the costs, that's for sure. So the issue is going to be if there is going to be an added cost, and if we're not going to be reimbursed for it in another manner, which is trackable, that's the key, then obviously we are going to have to pass that on to the consumer. Do we like it? Well, no. I hope it doesn't get to that because we certainly don't want to outprice our destination because we are already fairly pricey."
Officials at the Ministry of Finance estimate that VAT can generate approximately $200 million in revenue in the first year alone, which the government has suggested is key to reducing national debt levels.
High operating expenses and receivables approaching 80 percent hurt Bahamas Property Fund Limited's (BPF) profitability in the first quarter.
According to its financial statements up until March 31, the BISX-listed company saw its operating expenses spike 36.29 percent. "Other expenses" increased more than $170,000 after absorbing common area maintenance costs. The fund's flagship property, the Bahamas Financial Centre, has an estimated vacancy rate of 25 percent.
"The cost to maintain the building is shared by all of the tenants," said Jamaal Stubbs, senior analyst at CFAL. "Therefore, with fewer tenants, the cost is going up. You have to cover that cost."
The other culprit to profitability came in the form of receivables, which grew substantially in the first quarter. In fact, of all total revenues earned during this period, a concerning 77 percent represented unpaid rent.
The trend points to the tough financial times being felt around the world, as many of the tenants in the Bahamas Financial Centre are offshore banks. Meanwhile, with rent left unpaid, BPF must dip into its own reserves to meet its working capital requirements.
Stubbs noted that high receivables carry a variety of risks, including the danger that vacancy could increase as firms fail to cover liabilities.
In the first quarter BPF saw its earnings decline 36 percent, or $168,000, compared to the same period last year. Total revenues, however, did rise by $20,000 to $1.06 million through gains in the rental parking income.
In terms of the fund's other properties, Providence House remains fully leased with PricewaterhouseCoopers as its primary tenant. However, One Marina Drive on Paradise Island has a similar vacancy compared to the Bahamas Financial Centre.
BPF possesses more than $30 million in equity capital and only $16.1 million in long-term debt, placing the BISX-listed firm in a position for future acquisitions, should the right opportunity arise.
In a past interview with Guardian Business, Michael Anderson, the president of RoyalFidelity Merchant Bank & Trust, said the fund continues to target $100 million in assets "over a period of time".
"There is a glut of office space, particularly downtown," he noted. "Commercial real estate is not just about offices, but retail space as well. We have been looking at shopping malls and commercial office buildings. At the Bahamas Financial Centre, we have toyed with the idea of opening a retail space there on the ground floor and alternative uses for space."
Stubbs from CFAL confirmed that BPF "has the ability" to diversify its holdings.
"We would suggest that they pursue properties with a more diversified tenant mix. You don't want a situation where tenants are focused on one particular sector," he explained.
He agreed that a property with a strong retail component, such as a mall, would serve the fund well.
BPF is now trading at a discount of $3.16 per share.
Looking to build on a successful 2011 campaign, the Marina Operators of The Bahamas (MOB) is particularly optimistic that the organization is poised for more steady growth and exposure in the new year.
The only marina organization of its kind in The Bahamas, the MOB is confident that its upward momentum will carry through into 2012, with growth already seen in membership and activity over 2011, according to a group executive.
"Our membership has already jumped from 9 to 52 members since we were formed two years ago, and the growth that we are having is pretty remarkable," said MOB manager Shamine Johnson. "We're very optimistic going forward."
One of the highlights for the organization was a $40,000 grant it received from the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), aimed at developing the marina and enhancing its marketing and strategic vision. The MOB also became a part of the Caribbean Marine Association (CMA) in June, creating more exposure throughout the region.
A detailed map was also launched by the group, which outlined all of the marinas in The Bahamas for visitors to use as a reference. An advertising campaign is also in the works for the map, which marinas can use to market their businesses to prospective customers.
The growth in the country's marina sector was not without its challenges, with one of the major ones being high diesel prices throughout the year. The rising diesel costs made it more difficult for marinas to maintain current profit margins and a high customer base. The MOB was also active in trying to improve the current boat theft laws, lobbying for an amendment.
The optimism of the group can be seen in the actions of its members, with a Family Island marina operator looking to bounce back after a year filled with challenges, seeking a 10 percent rise in business in 2012.
Owner of Flying Fish Marina on Long Island, Mario Cartwright, told Guardian Business recently that 2011 had its fair share of ups and downs, but despite the challenges he is very optimistic about 2012.
"It has been reasonably steady for 2011, yacht sales have been a little depressed globally but as far as yachting in general we had a solid year," Cartwright said. "It's the way the business works, it's been up and down all year but for the most part we are looking to improve in 2012."
While Cartwright deemed 2011 a decent year, he admitted that the season had its fair amount of rough stretches.
An unexpected problem came in the form of Hurricane Irene, which caused some damage and thousands of dollars in repairs. However, Cartwright added that he caught a break when the hurricane arrived during the slower part of the marina season. However, he realizes that such incidents come with the territory and he is optimistic he will have a strong 2012.
"I feel that 2012 will be a great year for marinas in The Bahamas, and the amount of work the MOB has done to increase the global exposure of marinas is very commendable," Cartwright said.
"I have been here from the start and I believe that the improvement in the global economy will create a domino effect that will translate into growth for the organization and the marina sector in The Bahamas."