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A Bahamian-owned company has been selected to open four restaurants within the Baha Mar Casino and Hotel.
The move is set to lead to the hiring of as many as 400 people and the raising of tens of millions of dollars locally, Guardian Business understands.
The Skandalaris brothers, Johnny, Tony and Manoli, known for their ownership and development of Skans restaurant in downtown Nassau and, more recently, the popular Olives Meze Grill restaurant and ar on Cable Beach, are partners in the company with others, sources have disclosed.
Contacted for comment on Friday, Johnny Skandalaris confirmed that he and his brother are involved with the development of some restaurants in Baha Mar, but declined to comment further.
The $3.5 billion Baha Mar resort had planned for a December 2014 opening, but recently announced that it would push back its grand opening to spring 2015.
The restaurants are under development at present, Guardian Business understands.
Since it opened in 2011, Olives, located a short distance from Baha Mar, has become one of Nassau's most popular restaurants/bars. In late 2013, the business expanded due to overcrowding of its original space, extending its hours at the same time.
An official announcement from Baha Mar is anticipated within the coming week.
Freeport, Grand Bahama Island - Truly Bahamian breakfast awaits you daily at Led Med, Mediterranean Restaurant located on the marina at Port Lucaya.
Delicious Stew Fish, Boiled Fish, Chicken Souse, Stew Conch, Corned Beef and Grits are all available every morning at Le Med.
So when you're craving a tasty Bahamian breakfast made homemade style, head to Le Med.
Freeport, Grand Bahama Island - Truly Bahamian breakfast awaits you daily at Led Med, Mediterranean Restaurant located on the marina at Port Lucaya.
Delicious Stew Fish, Boiled Fish, Chicken Souse, Stew Conch, Corned Beef and Grits are all available every morning at Le Med.
So when you're craving a tasty Bahamian breakfast made homemade style, head to Le Med.
Abaco's first wine and food festival won "overwhelming support" from locals and visitors alike, according to organizers.
A spin-off of a popular Nova Scotia-based festival, the Devour! The Beach food and wine festival took place at the Green Turtle Club and Marina from March 26-29, attracting a solid attendance.
"Devour! The Beach was an extraordinary cultural event that showcased local cuisine along with the talents of North America's best chefs," said Adam Showell, owner of the Green Turtle Club and Marina. "We are proud to be the host of such a successful event in its first year."
The Bahamian communities warmly embraced the event with the majority of the attendees from Green Turtle Cay, Treasure Cay, Marsh Harbour and Nassau.
International attendees travelled from the far corners of North America to join in on the celebrations. Guests came from Nova Scotia, Manitoba, British Columbia, Ohio, New York, Tennessee, Connecticut, Florida, and Wyoming.
"Devour! The Beach offered a new product for Abaco and was well-received by visitors and locals alike," said Wynsome Ferguson, manager of Abaco's Bahamas Tourist Office, who was representing the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.
"It gave an economic boost to our economy and commenced our tourist season, attracting newcomers to the destination. Devour! The Beach has great potential for future growth."
The festival's events were near capacity with 70 percent attendance - a great accomplishment for the inaugural event. Despite minor weather interruptions, the beach party, appropriately titled 'Chefs on a Beach', was nearly sold out at the Green Turtle Club.
By the week's end, with four days of wine seminars and culinary indulgences incorporating local ingredients and the varied global backgrounds of all of the chefs, visiting chef, Jean Joho, who owns restaurants in Chicago and Las Vegas, said it was apparent that the event was a success. "The charm of the island, the warmth of the islanders, the appreciation of the attendees and the hospitality of the Green Turtle Resort staff made this a unique experience that I truly enjoyed and one that I would highly recommend," said Chef Joho.
Michael Palij, the festival's master of wine, thoroughly enjoyed his experience, adding: "Devour! That's exactly what I did. I devoured the amazing food prepared by a cadre of North America's leading chefs; I savored extremely fine wine; I absorbed the understated elegance of the unique Green Turtle Club and I reveled in mingling with dozens of like-minded foodies. 2015 - bring it on!"
Devour! The Beach is a spin-off of Devour! The Food Film Festival, based in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The fourth annual Food Film Festival will take place this coming November, and will showcase more than 50 film screenings from across the globe. It will also feature the very best of local and international food and wine and industry sessions with culinary experts on a variety of topics.
"Devour! The Beach is just the beginning when it comes to the full Devour! brand extension," said Executive Director Michael Howell. "We could not have picked a better spot to host the first Devour! satellite event."
Organizers of Devour! The Beach would like thank all of its sponsors: Island Property Management, Sound Harbour House, Spectacle Group, T4G, Infuse Public Relations, Abaco Estate Services, Burns House, John Watling's Run, Big Green Egg and Bahamas Food Services.
"A very special thank you goes to the Green Turtle Club Resort & Marina, Devour! The Beach's official event sponsor and host, along with the staff and management team of the resort, who worked tirelessly to ensure the event's success," said Chef Howell.
Howell also tipped his hat to Abaco's welcoming communities, along with chefs Jean Joho, Michael Howell, Michael Blackie, Tom Fleming, Craig Flinn, Eric Williams and Master of Wine Michael Palij.
It turned out that 13 was a lucky number for 25 seasoned and budding golfers, as they walked away with awards at last Sunday's Bahamas Hotel Association's (BHA) 13th Annual Golf Tournament at the Ocean Club Course on Paradise Island.
Despite the threat of inclement weather, a record number of 104 golfers registered to claim bragging rights while helping to raise over $20,000 for student scholarships and a range of programs which BHA is doing in the nation's schools.
"We are most appreciative of the tremendous support from our members, friends of BHA, and of course the golfers for supporting this year's tournament," stated BHA President Stuart Bowe. "The turnout was fantastic. It will go a long way next year toward matching and we hope exceeding the record 12 students who were awarded scholarships this year as a result of previous efforts. The tournament and our auctions have helped to put 81 young Bahamians through college during the past year with scholarships valued at $287,000, "added Bowe.
Tournament organizers Fred Lunn, John Spinks, Ted Adderley, Nelson O'Kelley and Billy Lee commended the golfers for their support, in announcing the winners of this year's tournament at an awards ceremony following the tournament. The tournament was sanctioned by the Bahamas Golf Federation (BGF).
Capturing first place was the team of Peter Muscroft and Doug Cowper which was sponsored by Royal Star Assurance. They were followed by Cliff Petford and Jake Neudorf. Third place honors went to the Royal Bank of Canada team of Phil Andrews and G. Hill. Fred Lunn and Errol Brown took fourth place and were sponsored by the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board.
Rounding out the top 10 teams, in fifth place was Roger Chow-How and Eddie Carter. Sixth place went to Andrew Burrows and John Kinger. Taking seventh was Jeffrey Walcott and Tyrone Cunningham representing BTC. Nicholas Knowles and Harrison Collins took eighth. Ninth place went to Jim Wilson and Patrick Knowles representing Scotiabank, and capturing 10th was the team of Nelson O'Kelly and Paul Burke from Kerzner International.
This year's sponsors included: Fidelity Bank, Kerzner International, Royal Bank of Canada, the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board, Bahamas Food Services, The d'Albenas Agency Ltd., Scotiabank, Bank of The Bahamas, the Bahamas Telecommunications Company, RoyalStar Assurance, KPMG, Graham Thompson & Co., Restaurants Bahamas (KFC), J.S. Johnson, the Lyford Cay Club, Banca del Sempione, Bahamas Wholesale Agency Ltd., Commonwealth Bank, Caribbean Bottling Company, Bahamas Hot Mix, N.U.A Insurance & Brokers, Deloitte & Touche, Nassau Motor Company, Pigeon Cay Beach Club, Providence Advisors, Wong's Rubber Stamp & Printing, American Hotel Register, Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach, Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort, Pelican Bay at Lucaya, American Airlines, Bahamasair, Comfort Suites Paradise Island, Treasure Cay Resort, Green Turtle Cay Club, Sandals Royal Bahamian, Ocean Club Golf Course, Nassau Airport Development Company, Island Merchants, Ridge Farms, Pineville Motel, Sunrise Resort & Marina, Blue Lagoon and Dolphin Encounters, Senor Frogs, Diamond's International, Via Caffe, Toads Hall Square Hill Estates, Sands Beer, Jewels by the Sea, Security & General Insurance, Luciano's of Chicago and Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Club.*Look for article images in our Online Gallery section.
Bahamas - Returning Grand Bahamian, Brian Botham, officially opened
his dream bar and restaurant on Thursday, August 12th, in
Lucaya, Grand Bahama. Red Beard's Pub, formerly the Britannia
Pub, offers affordable meals in a relaxing new venue for both locals
and tourists to enjoy.
"I wanted to create
a local bar for friends and visitors alike but I wanted to make it an
affordable place for them to bring their families to eat too," said
Botham. Botham who grew up in Grand Bahama but moved away when
he was a teen, back to his parent's home in Canada, has always wanted
to return home. "I brought my wife Debbie here and showed her
the paradise I grew up in," he tells us. "It wasn't hard for me
to convince her to make the decision to return..."
The chairman of Sandals Resorts International is considering a 75-room expansion to his Exuma property, noting there is "ample capacity" for growth.
Gordon 'Butch' Stewart said Sandals Emerald Bay has undergone an extensive "Sandalization" program to bring the resort up to Sandals' standards. That included the addition of a new pool, restaurants and weddings locations, in addition to "totally reviving" the Greg Norman championship golf course.
"We've since added more luxurious rooms and suites and restaurants and there is ample capacity for further expansion," he told Guardian Business. "Ideally, we'd love to add another 75 rooms and suites and are looking into the
possibility of that in the future."
Stewart noted, however, that the expansion is not fully confirmed at this stage.
The tentative approach is understandable considering the chain's recent challenges in Exuma.
Like many destinations on the Family Islands, maintaining consistent airlift and keeping operating costs down are key factors to achieving profitability. Sandals recently expressed concern over the resort's continued sustainability on Exuma, prompting a strong sign of support from the Bahamian government.
David Johnson, the director general at the Ministry of Tourism, revealed yesterday at Caribbean Marketplace that "realizing the potential and profitability in the long run requires more capacity", calling Sandals Emerald Bay "relatively small" for the brand.
First on the agenda, however, is boosting the resort's occupancy by up to 20 percent.
"We have talked about the expansion," he said. "That is the next phase. But first, they need to get healthy."
Johnson noted that Sandals has heavily subsidized planes coming into Exuma to ensure profits. The resort was funding airlift in an "imbalanced way", he added, and it was indeed an unsustainable situation. The government has since chipped in and taken on some of that burden, as well as helping them with other operating costs, according to Johnson.
Four Seasons, a premier international brand, closed down in Exuma back in 2009. Sandals scooped up the property the next year and pumped tens of millions into its revitalization.
The resort is the number one employer on the island and serves as the heart of Exuma's economy.
Salt -- it makes all foods taste really good, including a little sprinkle on slices of cantaloupe melon to bring out the sweetness -- and most people use it quite liberally. Actually most Bahamians intake more sodium [salt] than is recommended for a healthy diet, and that could lead to serious health problems, according to a family medical practitioner. Dr. Patrick Whitfield says too much sodium increases a person's risk for high blood pressure and that he said often leads to heart disease and stroke.
Dr. Whitfield, who practices out of the Oxford Medical Center, says heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and kidney failure are outcomes of high blood pressure and that collectively it has an enormous impact on premature death and disability in Bahamians.
"Most people eat on average about 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day. The United States dietary guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (1 teaspoon) per day and recommends that about six in 10 adults -- people who are 51 years or older, people with high blood pressure in all age groups, people with diabetes and people with chronic kidney disease -- should further limit their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day [about two-thirds of a teaspoon]," said Dr. Whitfield.
According to the doctor, the amounts listed are upper limits and less is usually best, even though the body does need some sodium to help it to function properly. Sodium helps to maintain the right balance of fluids in the body, helps transmit nerve impulses and influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
He said most Bahamians can benefit from reducing their sodium intake, and they can do so by eating more fresh foods, opting for low-sodium products, removing salt from recipes whenever possible, limiting the use of sodium-laden condiments, using herbs, spices and other flavorings to season foods and using salt substitutes wisely.
According to Dr. Whitfield, most of the sodium people eat comes from processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants, and that as salt is already part of the processed foods it cannot be removed.
He encourages people who want to control their sodium intake to be savvy shoppers, and know which foods to limit or avoid such as fast food cheeseburgers, barbecued ribs and chicken, dairy products such as cottage cheese, canned soups, and sauces (soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, mustard, pickles and olives which he said can add a lot of salt to food), nuts and vegetables. Snacks such as pretzels and chips he said should also be limited or avoided. Flour-based products such as bread, bagels, bakery items like pies and cookies he said should be consumed in moderation. Pizza and deli meats, frozen dinners and vegetable juices he also said should be limited.
The doctor encouraged people to enjoy more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods. And he encouraged the consumption of more whole grain products like fish, poultry and nuts. An alternative to salt he said is to add spices, herbs and pepper as an alternative to perk up the flavor of foods.
"When shopping, people should look to purchase fresh, frozen or canned vegetables without added salt most often."
He also encourages people to read nutrition labels and compare the amount of sodium in the processed food like frozen dinners, packaged mixes, cereals, breads, soups, salad dressing and sauces, as the amount in different types and brands vary widely. He said people should look for labels that read low sodium or no sodium.
A rundown on common sodium claims, according to the mayoclinic.com shows that sodium-free or salt free means that each serving of a product contains less than 5 milligrams of sodium. Very low sodium means each serving contains 35 milligrams of sodium or less. Reduced or less sodium means the product contains at least 25 percent less sodium than the regular version. Lite or light in sodium means the sodium content has been reduced by at least 50 percent from the regular version, and unsalted or no salt added means that no salt is added during the processing of a food that normally contains salt.
When eating out, Dr. Whitfield encourages people to choose plain foods like grilled or roasted entrees, baked potatoes and salad with oil and vinegar. He said batter-fried foods and combination dishes like stews or pasta with sauce tend to be high in salt.
As salt is an acquired taste, the doctor said people can learn to enjoy less. And that their taste buds will adjust as they decrease their use of salt gradually. After a few weeks of cutting back on salt, he says you probably won't miss it, and some foods may even taste too salty.
Island Luck CEO Sebas Bastian last night blamed a "flawed process" and the politicization of the referendum for the crushing defeat of the Vote Yes campaign in yesterday's historic poll, adding that thousands of jobs are now in limbo.
"If you factor in what we have seen so far, low voter turnout and the support of the no vote, it clearly shows that... Bahamians are probably disgusted with the process," Bastian said to The Nassau Guardian last night at Foxies Restaurant and Bar after it became clear that Bahamians overwhelmingly voted against the regularization of web shops and a national lottery.
"We were not happy with the process for obvious reasons but we couldn't come out and say because we can't bash our own campaign. We were always at a disadvantage because if you notice we ran a clean campaign. We never spoke out and bashed anyone. The church was our biggest opponent and I would never say anything about a man of God regardless of how I may feel internally."
Supporters of the Vote Yes campaign hosted a viewing party last night at Foxies. Supporters shut down the party shortly before 8 p.m. when it became clear that they lost the race.
Bastian said he's not sure what will happen today.
"We have not made a decision on that," he said when asked if web shops will open.
"We will respect the decision of the Government of The Bahamas. At the end of the day, I'm worried about the jobs. The staff do not know what to expect [in the coming days]. They may work [today] but they don't know if they are going to be employed Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. So they don't know how they are going to meet their financial obligations."
Prime Minister Perry Christie said previously that if there is a no vote, police will shut down web shops.
Island Luck employs just under 500 people. But it has been reported that more than 3,000 people are employed directly and indirectly through web shops.
Bastian said politics also played a part in the outcome.
"It's unfortunate when politicians play politics for political gain and use that influence to interfere with the minds of Bahamians," he said when asked about former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's endorsement of the no vote.
"And at the end of the day, only Bahamians lose. I'm hoping one day Bahamians can get out of the political fantasy and start making decisions for themselves."
As for his future, Bastian said he will survive even if he is called on to shut down his web shops.
"My business is diverse. There are two sides. There's the physical web shop side and the Internet side. So how it affects it, it all depends on whatever the government says. But I'm not just in the numbers business."
The Island Luck CEO added that he is about to venture into the construction industry. He expects to employ nearly 180 people in March. However, Bastian said many of his current employees will not qualify for those types of jobs.
Some Vote Yes supporters cried in the streets last night while others begged the web shop owner to find a way to keep his doors open.
Arlington Rolle, a Vote Yes supporter, said it seems as if the Bahamian people don't want to move forward.
"I hope that we will have another chance to vote and I hope that they vote yes the next go around," he said.
"I want the Bahamian people to move forward. I don't gamble. I wanted them to win because I saw the benefits. I saw where Bahamian people could achieve something. The web shops help the country. So it upsets me to know that the Bahamian people did not stick to their word."
Another Vote Yes supporter, who identified herself only as Marge, said the results left her depressed.
"I am hurt that it's a no vote," she said. "I'm hurt for the girls who will lose their jobs."
She hoped the web shops would find a way to remain.
"I hope they go underground and open up," she said.
"That helps me to pay my bills. If I win, I give the landlord something. I give Freeport Power something. The clothes store gets something and the hair dresser gets something. But if I can't play in The Bahamas, I'll go to the United States. I take my money in the United States and I spend it there. But if I could gamble home I could spend my money and it will spread around."
Four Bahamian students are making waves -- but it's not in academics or sports. The four students of Anatol Rodgers High School are instead making waves in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Brandon Brooks, Delnika Stuart, Christoff Hall and Lakeyia Adderley, four persons that took tourism and hospitality studies at Anatol Rodgers High School, traveled to Orlando, Florida for the eighth annual American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) National Lodging Management Program (LMP) Competition at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort where they were challenged to the real-life work experience in a hotel. The teams of students displayed their proficiency in three contests:
Hotel operations: Students applied their knowledge in a three-part challenge -- room inspections in which students has 10 minutes to find housekeeping cleaning errors in a typical guest room using an executive housekeeping checklist; night audit, in which teams performed financial calculations and manually posted front desk accounting information and case studies in food and beverage and sales and marketing in which students had 15 minutes to prepare solutions to case study scenarios.
The hospitality project: Teams demonstrated their knowledge, skills and abilities in event planning. They were given a scenario that included budget parameters, invitation design, banquet event order, menu and floor plan.
The knowledge bowl: Teams demonstrated their knowledge through a multi-round, question and answer Jeopardy-style quiz.
In all, 12 teams representing schools in Arkansas, The Bahamas, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, DC. and Wyoming participated in the LMP national educational program for high school juniors and seniors. When the final guest room had been checked for housekeeping errors, The Bahamian foursome placed seventh out of the 12 schools that participated. High school hospitality students from Okkodo High School in Guam took home the national title. Second place went to Lakeland High School (Idaho) with students from Mountain View Academy (New Hampshire) taking third spot.
The Bahamian team may not have won, but 17-year-old Lakeyia Adderley says what she liked most about the competition was the creative activities like the knowledge bowl, hospitality project, Jeopardy-style question and answer session and the room inspection.
"We may not have won, but it was great for us as a learning experience," said the tourism and hospitality studies student. "It was also a great chance to promote The Bahamas because there were kids at the competition that didn't even know about our country. I think it is great that we went and represented and saw just what is out there that can make us better in this field in the long run."
The twelfth grade student said, "I am really determined to be a part of this industry now, and I think I am more ready than ever."
Christoff Hall, 17, says prior to the competition he thought he had learnt a lot from the hospitality program, but realizes after the international competition that he's learnt even more.
"It felt good going to the competition especially since you had to be chosen out a lot of students who were really good in the program. We did a lot of fun things and it was amazing," said Hall, who is headboy at Anatol Rodgers school. "What I learnt the most from the new program itself is something I probably would've taken longer to learn had I done it any other way. For instance, although we are a nation dependent on tourism I didn't know much about it. I figured if I did the program I would learn more and see if this is a field I would like to enter and I did. I am now interested in being an executive manager in the tourism field."
Brandon Brooks has no regrets about joining the hospitality and management program, and participating in the international competition. The 17-year-old says the competition was one of the best things he has experienced.
"The program is about the world of tourism and what we can realistically expect should we enter the field. We learned so much in terms of etiquette, professionalism, customer care and management that really prepared us for the field. We went to different hotels and got first-hand experience and saw just how all the levels of the hotel staff operate. My eyes were really opened to the fact that the industry isn't confined to just hotels and restaurants. It is in almost every aspect of our society in which a service and personal interaction is involved. I learnt more than just theory. I got to go out there, meet people and do the work. It was great," said Brooks.
For graduating senior Delnika Stuart, 17, the competition "put the icing on the cake" for her as the program ended. Her biggest regret is that she did not take the program as seriously as she should have when she started out.
She says she now realizes that had she applied herself more and taken full advantage of the opportunities given to her from the start, she wouldn't have been challenged for the top student in the program. But what she has realized now that the program has ended for her as she leaves high school behind is that she is passionate about being a pastry chef and an entrepreneur. She hopes to use the techniques she learnt throughout the course and in the competition to build her own business in the future.
Anatol Rodgers' tourism studies teacher Janelle Cambridge, who traveled with the team to the competition, was proud of the students' accomplishments and hopes to see an increase in the number of Bahamian schools participating in the NLMP competition.
"I think the students did very well as this was their first time in the competition. I hope we go back and place in the top three next time."
She said for her it's not only about being able to go to the competition, but to see how much the students learn and experience. She realizes this will put them ahead of so many others because of the hospitality and management program that's the Ministry of Education initiative. In 2009, the Ministry of Education partnered with the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLE) to certify Bahamian hospitality teachers as instructors to teach the three curriculum. Since the certification, Anatol Rodgers High School is the only school to offer the hospitality and tourism studies as a full program.
"I believe that this program is better than the traditional tourism education or culinary arts programs in high schools now, because it allows students to do more programs than just BahamaHost which is essential in helping students learn interpersonal and problem solving skills and how to deal with customers," says Cambridge. "Students learn so much it is amazing. I do not know if the students would've done so well in the competition had they not been participants in this program and the depth it goes into."
She also said it is important to expose the students to competitions like the AHLEI competition to remind them that there are other countries out there with a tourism product, and as the future of the industry they need to keep on top of everything that is out there.
Cambridge says many people say tourism today is nothing like it was in the days of yesteryear when programs like BahamaHost were successful and entering the industry was an honorable profession and not just another job.
She says most people have had an experience where they didn't get the kind of service they thought they should have at a tourism-based establishment and often wonder just what went wrong in the training of the staff they met. Cambridge says implementing programs like tourism and hospitality studies (for) students while they are young and more pliable to set the right foundation is the best way to improve the quality of this vital industry.
She hopes more schools establish the whole program as a normal curriculum in the future because she has found great success and sees the potential it will have for the other students who may be interested in the field. In the first year, students interested in the program can expect to participate in the Junior Hotelier Program, a 10-week curriculum that allows students to explore the possibilities in careers in hospitality and meet industry professionals to learn firsthand about the industry.
Cambridge says this method is better than just reading about what is out there and having a guest speaker come in for one or two classes because it ends up being more engaging and important questions can be answered on the spot.
Students also participate in CaribCert, a regional certification program from the Caribbean Hotel Association that gets students to fully understand the core essentials of tourism industry including sustainable tourism, professionalism, health and safety, customer service and other things.
Senior students in the program will have completed the 320 hours in the full program inclusive of the 120-hour internship necessary to be certified in different tourism disciplines of their choosing such as rooms division specialists, food and beverage server, sales and marketing, maintenance employee and front desk employee.
From the presentation to the creativity and the incorporation of tastes that Bahamians love, ensures that Munasan is a different Japanese experience than what people have become accustomed to.
The newest Japanese fusion restaurant at Superclubs Breezes on Cable Beach will make a sushi lover out of everyone that crosses its doorstep according to Superclubs Breezes executive chef Nigel Clarke. He believes people won't be able to get enough of what they are doing.
"What we're trying to do is make [the food at Munasan] a little more local," said Chef Clarke of the restaurant that officially opened its doors two weeks ago. The restaurant offers the standard Japanese restaurant sushi fare -- shumai, seaweed salad, miso soup, sashimi and sushi. But they have upped the ante with signature rolls -- spicy coconut shrimp roll, BBQ conch and pineapple roll, corn flake encrusted smoked salmon roll and their soft shell crab California roll -- that Chef Clarke said will entice people who aren't already sushi connoisseurs, but who are interested to try sushi, but are afraid, or hesitant, to try it.
"These rolls will draw them in to love sushi. When we did tasting, some of my staff had never tried a sushi roll until then. The perception was that it was raw, so they weren't going to try it. And now a lot of our guys have fallen in love with sushi rolls. Now they know that some rolls are actually cooked," he said.
An added feature that will make Munasan stand out from other Japanese restaurants around town is that Munasan has a create your own stir fry station. You choose your protein -- beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu; choose your vegetables -- the server advises on the vegetable choices of the day; then you choose your sauce -- chili garlic, black bean, sweet and sour, Mongolian spicy ginger, Asian barbecue or Thai coconut curry.
It's a feature that Chef Clarke says makes for a lot of work and is risky, but he said they want to give a different experience because they realize people don't want to be limited.
And on the scope of different, where most folks would anticipate tempura (fried) ice cream for dessert, at Munasan they do a brownie roll (rolled with ice cream to look like a sushi roll), and they offer a mango-misu as opposed to a tiramisu.
"We wanted to be a little different ... a little unique. When people come in we want them to be able to say this is not what we'd get down the road. When people talk about coming to the Munasan, it's different and the taste has to be there," said Chef Clarke. He also said that presentation is important to them, but they want people to be able to see the plate, taste the food and want to come back.
"This is one of the smaller Japanese menus on the island in terms of what we offer. So for the create you own stir fry station, we have quite a number of sauces, and of course it can be a bit tedious, [especially if] you have a big table and everyone's having the same meat but different sauce. But people love options and we want to give them those options," he said.
Paramount to their decision on the menu he said was for them to understand the Bahamian taste buds and incorporate those tastes into what they would offer.
While the menu is indeed different from other Japanese offerings around town, Chef Clarke said it did not take long for Japanese chef Takeshi Tanabe to conceptualize their specialty rolls.
Edamame, shrimp and vegetable tempura, soft shell crab, agedashi tofu (deep-fried tofu with agedashi sauce) and yaki hotate (sauted scallop with clear garlic-soy butter) are on the appetizer menu.
Green salad, seaweed salad, tofu salad and miso soup round out the soup and salad menu.
The Nigiri sushi is comprised of maguro (tuna), ebi (shrimp), unagi (eel), hamachi (yellow tail), shake (salmon) and kani (crab).
Hamachi, tuna and salmon comprise the sashimi offerings.
California roll (crab, cucumber and avocado), kappa maki (vegetable roll), spicy tuna roll (tuna, tobiko and spicy mayonnaise) and tempura roll (shrimp tempura, avocado and cucumber) are the maki sushi offerings.
Beef negimaki (grilled rolls of sliced beef with scallions), lobster tempura (lobster deep fried in batter) and ebi chili (sauteed black tiger shrimp with Japanese chili sauce) are served with white or brown rice.
Meal finishers offered with the brownie roll and mango-misu are the layered chocolate mousse and profiteroles.
Munasan is the brainchild of Mona Issa, daughter of John Issa, chairman of Superclubs Breezes Bahamas.
"Japanese is something she loves," said Chef Clarke. The Superclubs Breezes properties in Jamaica all have Japanese restaurants.
Presently, Munasan opens two days per week, Fridays and Saturdays, 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Dear Editor,The editorial in yesterday's paper (Dec 28) regarding theobligatory 15 percent gratuity added to restaurant bills hits the nail on the head. Surely employees would be motivated to offer better service if the "tip" was not a guaranteedwindfall for them. Let's look at the origin of theword "tip" when relating to restaurant service.
By ALISON LOWE
Bahamian restaurant, bar and hospitality stakeholders should capitalise on global trends in food and beverages to increase visitor and local customer traffic/revenue, an international gastronomy and beverage consultant said yesterday.
Josué Merced-Reyes, president of InterEmarketing, a food, wine and beverage consulting firm, specialising in the Caribbean and Latin American hospitality industry, provided this advice as he gave insights into the current biggest "driving forces" behind consumers' choice of dinners, desserts and cocktails.
He urged Bahamian stakeholders - including chefs, restauranteurs, hotel food ...
As the Thanksgiving holiday looms, a local religious leader has urged Bahamians not to get carried away with the spirit of the North American holiday but to use the time to celebrate Bahamian traditions and history.
In a statement released this week, Reverend Canon Sebastian Campbell, rector of St. Gregory's Anglican Church, took issue with the fact that many Bahamians celebrate Thanksgiving, teach its history in public schools and take part in related feasts. He urged Bahamians to ignore the North American "cultural invasion" and focus on local customs and history during this time.
"Let us cut to the chase," Campbell said. "The average Bahamian is brainwashed and, or, mis-educated when referring to this time of the year simply as Thanksgiving.
"This is not America; we've had a cultural invasion and are ignorant to it. Our [public] schools do a whole lot of mental damage this time of the year that, if not checked, will be a lever in the continued transplanting of our Bahamian cultural heritage.
"I have sat through many a school assembly and endured teachers pontificating on the pilgrim fathers, and then to reinforce this with our impressionable children doing skits and songs on the first Thanksgiving and it's ongoing development and influence on life, as though all this is a part of our Bahamian history which they assert we should justifiably celebrate. We have a case here of the blind leading the blind."
Campbell also said more focus should be placed on local cuisine during celebrations and lamented the fact that American fast food has permeated Bahamian culture, sometimes pushing local restaurants out of the market.
"The cultural onslaught invades further at the level of our stomach," he said.
"It is in our schools; after these thanksgiving assemblies teachers barricade themselves to gobble down the American dishes of ham, turkey, pumpkin pie, etc. This behavior is an insult to our cultural heritage, and to our good and gracious God who has made us uniquely Bahamian.
"We are a peculiar people with peculiar blessings, a peculiar heritage and thus a peculiar history. Next to no leadership comes from anywhere in this cultural onslaught."
The end of November is traditionally a time to celebrate the harvest, Campbell said, as he urged Bahamians to use the time to give thanks for the blessings God has bestowed on the country.
"We Bahamians must show our thankfulness to God for his blessings on us as Bahamians. We must count our blessings. We are no celebrants of ham and turkey. This is American. Stop trying to be that which we are not.
"God has blessed us with Long Island mutton, wild boar from Inagua, Andros crab, grouper and conch from our water. Can we show appreciation for Cat Island flour cake and Eleuthera pineapple, even when turned upside down? Yes, and good old peas soup n' dough seasoned with dry conch and salt beef. Oh yes, by now we have the message. We wash all that down with good old switcher or sky juice. Depending on our religious background, we can spice up these drinks even further."
With plans underway to construct a Lucayan Village replica in San Salvador, the government is now placing a renewed focus on promoting cultural tourism, an area The Bahamas has "dropped the ball on".
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe told Guardian Business he believes the project will go a long way in diversifying the country's tourism product, while bringing dozens of jobs to the island.
"I see this sector as being very profitable because people want that experience. It's true that we have dropped the ball in the area of cultural tourism, and that's something that we are trying to correct now. It's important that we ensure the world understands that we're a nation with many experiences," according to Wilchcombe.
He called the missed opportunity a shame, as more tourists are in search of history, culture and understanding the destination and its people while on vacation.
"It is significantly important because of what San Salvador means to world history. If you look at the country's constitution, you would see that the rebirth of the new world was pointed out in the first paragraph, the rocks, cays and the islands," he said.
"We have to utilize that reality and attract people from the world to visit an island like San Salvador and The Bahamas."
In San Salvador to sign a heads of agreement for the $90 million expansion of the Club Med resort on that island last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the tourism project will seek to recreate something that existed prior to Christopher Columbus' landfall on San Salvador, and he is confident that it will bring "great" economic value to the island and its residents.
"It will provide opportunities for architects, builders and construction workers. Entrepreneurs, artists and artisans will also be able to provide their services as there will be stores and restaurants located just outside of the village," he said.
"It will also create new jobs such as trained tour guides, hospitality hosts and support staff. That's going to happen with this project."
He said historical authenticity would be "stretched" in the village's design, making it more appealing for tourists, locals and students.
"I am sure it will become a uniquely enriching experience for Bahamians and visitors alike. There will be three main elements to this project," the prime minister revealed.
"The project will seek to recreate in a very tangible and visual form a historically faithful microcosm of the Lucayan civilization as it would have existed in San Salvador in the pre-Columbian period."
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Producing higher quality dishes infused with a Bahamian flavour will enable this nation's hotel and restaurant industry to offset the impact of rising global food prices, organisers of a major food and beverage seminar said yesterday, enabling chefs to maintain their margins.
Frank Comito, executive vice-president of the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA), one of the organisations sponsoring next month's 2011 Food, Flavour and Beverage Trends: Growing revenue and increasing customer traffic seminar, described as "very critical" the need to offset rising food prices by staying in touch with global consumer trends.
Speaking on behalf of BHA pre ...
"Lies, damned lies and statistics" is how Mark Twain popularized a refrain sometimes attributed to a variety of British pundits and politicians when forced to address opponents using statistics to bolster their position.
Just a few weeks ago, the Department of Statistics released the annual unemployment report reflecting a dramatic increase of two percent in unemployment. Immediately, government ministers became "spin doctors" issuing silver lining statements as rings around the ominous dark cloud portrayed by the latest labor force survey. The increase in unemployment should not be of concern, we are being told because it does not truly reflect a loss in jobs in the economy; rather, it is claimed, it reflects an increase in the number of previously discouraged workers who have rejoined the labor market because they are now hopeful of finding employment, and they have swelled the numbers of the unemployed.
But this is "spin". It does not reflect the facts. There has been a loss of jobs in the economy. Between May 2012 and May 2013 the number of persons employed decreased by 1,260. Furthermore, there was an increase in the rate of unemployment as 3,455 new entrants came to the job market while the number of employed persons was falling by 1260.
Trying to find a silver lining
Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Michael Halkitis was first out of the gate with that fanciful story. He was soon followed by Minister for Grand Bahama Michael Darville, who advised that employment had increased at the Freeport Container Port since May of this year. And he claimed to be hopeful that the employment numbers would be up in Grand Bahama before the next survey, as a number of new small businesses had opened on that island.
Then, the prime minister joined the chorus expressing hope that by next year the "economy will begin to shift in our favor..." This was followed with the live radio coverage of the signing of a heads of agreement that would see the construction of a number of condo-hotel units in collaboration with Club Med in San Salvador.
These PLP ministers remind me of the propaganda spun by a Jamaican prime minister in the 1970s when he told his party faithful to ignore criticisms about the "devaluation" of the Jamaican dollar against the U.S. dollar. He told them what had happened was that the Jamaican dollar had not been "devalued"; it had been "revalued". And the people cheered. Just like Bahamians cheered when then Minister of Finance Carlton Francis announced at a PLP convention that following years of a balanced budget under a socially deficient UBP government, The Bahamas under the PLP would have a deficit budget for the first time. Today of course, Jamaicans no longer cheer at the thought of their severely devalued currency, and Bahamians shudder with the thought of the long-term consequences of a growing national debt.
The reality of the Bahamian economy
We have come through a terrible economic period; an economic and financial crisis which sent the entire global economy into collapse and recession, even if the PLP in opposition refused to acknowledge it. The fallout from the Great Global Recession caused the Bahamian economy to lose more than 17,000 jobs between 2008 and 2009; the number of employed persons fell from 174,920 in 2008 to 157,805 in 2009. Those 17,000-plus jobs lost in the Great Recession have not returned.
In times of international and national economic and financial crisis, it is left to the government to seek to adopt policies and programs to stimulate economic activity in the private sector so as to sustain as many jobs as possible and to maintain to the extent possible employment in the public sector.
Thousands of jobs were created in the private sector between 2009 and 2012 through infrastructural projects undertaken by the FNM government. These were supplemented by additional real jobs created through the jump start and self-starter programs and through the national jobs and skills training 52-week program, which put qualified and capable young Bahamians into positions to begin to earn honest incomes to support their families.
Such infrastructural and skills training policies are exactly the kinds of policies that the international financial organizations and the international ratings agencies recommend governments adopt during difficult economic times. One wonders whether the PLP government understands the value of the millions of dollars spent by contractors and their workers in the Bahamian economy with Bahamian construction suppliers, food stores, utility corporations, restaurants, lenders, motor vehicle dealerships, etc.
These various and legitimate programs undertaken by the last FNM government helped to sustain and create jobs in our all-important construction and services sectors during tough economic times.
The Department of Statistics reports for the years 2008-2012 indicate that the economy had begun a slow recovery by 2009. By May 2011, some 2,380 new jobs had been added to the economy. In the last year of the FNM government from May 2011 to May 2012, an additional 5,070 new jobs were created. This gradual recovery came as a direct result of government policies.
Tourism is the engine of the Bahamian economy; and tourism is in serious trouble. Small wonder then that the economy is performing poorly and the number of the unemployed is increasing.
A senior tourism executive was recently quoted in the media commenting on declining air service to The Bahamas. The official admitted to "a loss of over 50,000 seats" for 2013. We know that the loss is nearer to 70,000 seats, which is more than any other destination in our region in terms of both absolute and percentage loss of air seats. This significant loss of air seats also explains why The Bahamas is performing poorly in terms of the lucrative stopover visitor segment.
We have experienced more than a seven percent year-over-year decline in stopover visitors as compared with competing destinations in our region. Unlike The Bahamas, most countries are recovering from the effects of the Great Recession and recording positive stopover growth.
With tourism, our most important economic sector performing so abysmally, it is not surprising that we are now experiencing the highest level of unemployment in 35 years. According to the Ministry of Tourism, each air arrival represents more than $1,300 per person in expenditure in the Bahamian economy. The loss of 70,000 seats represents a loss of more than $100 million in visitor expenditure.
When the FNM administration left office in May 2012, air arrivals were growing at more than 11 percent, which was equal to the best performing start of any year for foreign air arrivals in recorded tourism history. Tourism, which accounts for more than 60 percent of our GDP, is such an important driver of our economy that a fall-off in air arrivals and stopover visitors of that magnitude easily explains the current state of our economy. The treasury of The Bahamas will lose millions of dollars in departure taxes, room taxes and import duties alone. Under these circumstances, businesses will continue to close, no businesses will hire additional staff and existing workers will suffer through prolonged periods of two- and three-day work weeks throughout the industry.
While the overall performance of The Bahamas is the worst in the region, Grand Bahama in particular has recorded a jaw dropping 17.4 percent decline in air arrivals so far this year, according to the latest information from the Ministry of Tourism. To make matters worse, even the cruise business is down in Grand Bahama.
It has been stated publicly on several occasions that we will need an additional 300,000 air seats annually in order to satisfy the needs of Baha Mar. With the loss of 70,000 air seats so far this year, that required number has now increased by 23 percent to 370,000 or an average of roughly 1,000 additional air seats needed per day.
History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future. - Robert Penn Warren
As we noted in parts I and II of this series, the march to Majority Rule in The Bahamas can be characterized by two words: sustained struggle.
On January 10, we quietly celebrated the first public holiday to commemorate the day that Majority Rule came to The Bahamas in 1967. It was a life-changing event that catapulted the lives of many thousands to unimaginable heights. Last week we reviewed three important milestones in the march to Majority Rule that helped to create the framework for the attainment of that achievement: the by-election of 1938, the Burma Road Riot of 1942, and the Contract beginning in 1943. This week and in the final week in January, we will continue to Consider This...what were some of the major milestones that contributed to the centuries-long march to Majority Rule?
The 1950s were decisively transformative on the march to Majority Rule. It was a decade that witnessed the formation of the PLP in 1953, the 1956 Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the House of Assembly and the 1958 General Strike.
The formation of the PLP
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was established in 1953, following an attempt by the Citizens' Committee to actively address some of the rampant discriminatory practices by the white Nassau elite. The Citizens' Committee, formed in December 1950 initially protested the government's refusal to let Bahamians view three films: "No Way Out" (starring Bahamian actor Sidney Poitier), "Lost Boundaries" and "Pinky" all of which addressed societal injustices. Many of the members of the Citizens' Committee, which was led by Maxwell Thompson, Cleveland Eneas, and A. E. Hutchinson and whose members included Jackson Burnside, Randol Fawkes, Gerald Cash, Kendal Isaacs, Marcus Bethel and other prominent personalities, suffered brutal discrimination and many of its members were deprived of the ability to earn a living by the Bay Street oligarchy as a result of their social activism.
In October, 1953 the PLP was formed by Henry Taylor (who would become the third Bahamian governor general in an Independent Bahamas from June 26, 1988 to January 1, 1992), William Cartwright and Cyril Stevenson with a platform that responded to the challenge by Rev. H. H. Brown that: "The Progressive Liberal Party hopes to show that your big man and your little man, your black, brown and white man of all classes, creed and religions in this country can combine and work together in supplying sound and successful political leadership which has been lacking in The Bahamas."
The PLP made bold progressive promises for a more equitable social structure including equal opportunities for all Bahamians, better education, universal suffrage, stronger immigration policies, lower-cost housing and the development of agriculture and the Out Islands.
In the early days of the PLP, its members were subjected to abject ostracism and victimization by the white elite, including the loss of jobs and bank credit, as well as canceled contracts. In 1955, Lynden Pindling and Milo Butler emerged as the leaders of the party, appealing to the black masses to mobilize in advance of the general elections of 1956. The party also attracted Randol Fawkes, the founder of the Bahamas Federation of Labour in May 1955.
The general election of May 1956 was the first to be fought by an organized political party. The PLP won six seats in the House of Assembly, four in Nassau and two in Andros. That election significantly accelerated the march to Majority Rule. In March 1958 the white oligarchy formed themselves into the second organized political unit, the United Bahamian Party (UBP). The UBP would later disband and its members would join forces with the Free National Movement (FNM) in 1972.
The 1956 Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the House of Assembly
In the wake of rampant racial discrimination that prevented access for black people to hotels, movie theatres, restaurants, and other public places, H. M. Taylor, the chairman of the PLP, whose platform vowed to eliminate racial discrimination in the colony, tabled a number of questions to the leader of the government.
Moved by this and in light of his own disgust with racially motivated practices, in January 1956, Etienne Dupuch, the editor of the Nassau Tribune and a member of the House of Assembly for the eastern district, tabled an Anti-Discrimination Resolution in the House of Assembly. During his passionately eloquent speech on the resolution, the speaker of the House of Assembly ordered Dupuch to take his seat, threatening, if he refused to do so, that he would be removed from the chamber by the police. Dupuch responded: "You may call the whole Police Force, you may call the whole British Army...I will go to [jail] tonight, but I refuse to sit down, and I am ready to resign and go back to the people." The speaker abruptly suspended the House proceedings.
Although the resolution was supported by H. M. Taylor, Bert Cambridge, Eugene Dupuch, C.R. Walker, Marcus Bethel, and Gerald Cash, it was referred to a select committee, effectively killing it. However, the following day, most of the Nassau hotels informed the public that they would open their doors to all, regardless of their race.
The 1958 General Strike
The General Strike began in January 1958 after several months of tension that arose because of the government's plans to allow hotels and tour buses that were owned by the established white tour operators to provide transport for visitors to and from the airport, at the expense of predominantly black taxi drivers who made a large portion of their living transporting tourists between the new Windsor Field (Nassau International) Airport and downtown hotels. To allow the hotels and tour companies to supplant the taxi drivers would severely curtail the ability of black taxi drivers to earn a decent living.
The government learned that the taxi drivers would vehemently protest this arrangement when they blockaded the new airport on the day it opened. On that day, nearly 200 union taxi drivers stopped all business at the airport for 36 hours, showing their determination to protest the government's plans. Negotiations on 20 points ensued between the union, represented by Lynden Pindling and Clifford Darling, the union's president, and the government for the following eight weeks, but broke off after they could not agree on one final point.
On January 11, 1958 the taxi union voted for a general strike and the next day the General Strike commenced with the cessation of work at hotels, which was supported by hotel and construction workers, garbage collectors, bakers, airport porters and employees of the electricity corporation. The strike lasted until January 31 and prompted a visit to the colony by the secretary of state for the colonies who recommended constitutional and political and electoral reforms which were incorporated into the General Election Act of 1959. Following the General Strike, male suffrage was introduced for all males over 21 years of age and the company vote was abolished.
Undoubtedly, the General Strike accentuated the ability of effective reform that could be achieved by the peaceful mobilization of the black majority.
Next week, we will review the decade of the 1960s and discuss how the Women's Suffrage Movement, the 1962 general elections and Black Tuesday culminated in the eventual attainment of Majority Rule with the general elections of 1967.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conch and Kalik have come together and are proving to be a winning combination at one of the island's newest restaurants -- Conch N' Kalik Bar and Grill. It's the place where the mollusk and native beer can be found in almost every offering from the appetizer portion of the menu through to the soups and salads, burgers, sandwiches and wraps, and their specialties. But the chefs hold off on pushing the envelope and adding it into any of their dessert items.
At Conch N' Kalik Bar and Grill located in Pompey Square, downtown, the menu features items that are twists on regular appetizers -- think conch chili fries (ground conch chili, sharp cheddar on seasoned fries), nachos (tri-colored nachos topped with homemade aged cheddar and Kalik beer cheese sauce, diced tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, guacamole and sour cream), firecracker conch spring roll (an oversized handcrafted crispy roll with blackened conch, vegetables, rice noodles and sweet tamarind dipping sauce), conch scampi, conch fettuccinie with garlic bread, conch parmesan with fettucini pasta and garlic bread, island-style coconut curry conch and conch and crab cake.
There are other unique offerings featuring the two ingredients after which the restaurant is named, like the Black Angus Beef Burger (with aged cheddar and Kalik beer cheese sauce, Kalik's double crunch onion ring, pecan smoked bacon, shredded lettuce, heirloom tomatoes on a Brioche bun) and deep water conch salad sandwich (fried conch on whole grain ciabbata bread with sour-orange mayo, shredded lettuce and vegetable salsa).
The menu items were all dreamed up in the mind of Chef Devin Johnson who opened the restaurant, but has now moved on and left it in the capable hands of Chef Eunesha Solomon who now wears the executive sous chef hat. It's a task she's up to. When Chef Devin came on board to open the restaurant, he headhunted Chef Eunesha from their previous place of employment to take over after he moved on.
Before he left, Chef Devin said the 50-item menu took him six weeks to come up with and master. A chef who is big on playing up local ingredients who has served as the national team manager for many years, he said it was a delight to come up with the menu that showcases Bahamian ingredients.
And the portion sizes are huge. He said they had to do it that way to give people their money's worth.
"People eat with their eyes, and people love it," said Chef Devin of the oversized, tasty portions that they have become known for.
They also offer a signature creamy conch and roast corn chowder (chunks of conch meat with fresh roasted corn, root vegetables and a hint of goat pepper), mango barbeque ranch chicken salad (mango, avocado, grape tomatoes, grilled corn, pigeon peas, cucumbers and romaine lettuce tossed with a mango infused barbeque ranch dressing, topped with crispy fried onions that are surprising people that are so good).
And there are also specialty offerings -- the tamarind glazed flat iron steak, mango rum basted pork baby back ribs, lobster fettucine (only served during the season), and Kalik Gold beer battered fish and chips.
And you can't have a restaurant that serves conch without offering Bahamian favorites like like cracked conch and Bahamian style steam conch. There's also a Bahamian style grilled conch, conch salad and the conch salad of the day that is upstaging the traditional salad - the tropical. Conch N' Kalik serves theirs with pineapple, mango and green apple.
According to Chef Solomon, the profile at Conch N' Kalik is all about flavor.
While they're proud of their food, the libations menu at the restaurant isn't to be sneezed at, and they say you have to have their signature drink called a Kalik-arita, where the Kalik of your choice meets a margarita base.
And while they just didn't take a chance on incorporating conch or Kalik into any of their desserts, they do offer tasty endings to satisfy the sweet tooth - guava duff, passion fruit and white chocolate cheesecake, carrot-pineapple cake and a dark rich chocolate cake with a Caribbean twist which means it has a banana-coconut mousse and finished with almonds.
With its first location open, the proprietors of Conch N' Kalik are planning to open another four locations -- one in Abaco, Grand Bahama, Turks and Caicos Islands and Florida.
Conch and Kalik is open daily. They start their beverage service at 10 a.m. Their food service starts at 11 a.m. They close at midnight.
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New Providence is set to become a culinary mecca when the inaugural Minority Chef Summit rolls into town.
The four-day event, May 1-4 will showcase the talents and creativity of some of the leading minority professionals in the food and beverage industry worldwide.
Taking place at The College of The Bahamas, the summit will include an array of seminars, hands-on classes and competitions, as well as a culinary market. The conference will allow culinarians to come together to network, educate and to support the minority culinary community.
The Minority Chef Summit was founded by chef and chocolatier, Erika Davis, who formerly served as creative director for Graycliff Chocolatier in Nassau, and who is a highly-celebrated chef within the culinary field. Chef Erika has been in the chocolate-making industry for over 22 years, and recognized as one of the United States' top chefs. She has received many note-worthy commendations, among which include: Competing Chef 'Top Chef Just Desserts' inaugural show by Bravo; First Black female chef to receive Detroit's Chef of the Month; Showcased in several culinary magazines and invitational culinary events; Featured chef of 'Sunday Dinner' promotion with Publix Grocery Stores and Chocolatier Ambassador of Cocoa Barry Chocolates.
Chef Erika's time spent in New Providence working with and teaching aspiring Bahamian chefs lies at the heart of her inspiration for creating the Minority Chef Summit.
"This is a unique opportunity to come together, recognizing not only our individual craft, but the true excellence of our culinary community," she said.
The 2014 Minority Chef Summit keynote speaker will be Chef Jeff Henderson, an award-winning chef, public speaker and author of the New York Times best seller 'Cooked'.
Additional featured culinary artists include:
Chef Asha Gomez, owner/chef of Cardamom Hill Restaurant and Third Space in Atlanta, GA. Cardamom Hill was a 2013 James Beard nominee for Best New Restaurant.
Chef Jerome Brown, a celebrity private chef whose clientele include Shaquille O'Neal, Colin Powell and Priscilla Presley, to name a few. Chef Brown also has his own TV show, 'Cooking with Rome'.
Chef Guy Wong, owner/chef of Miso Izakaya, who was recently named one of Atlanta's 2012 Rising Stars.
Chef Ron Duprat, a fierce competitor on season six of Bravo's 'Top Chef.' Chef Duprat is author of "My Journey of Cooking" and is affiliated with organizations that contribute and give back to the community and people around the world, including United States First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative.
Chef Keith Rhodes, voted Wilmington, NC's Best Chef for three consecutive years.
Chef Hugh Sinclair, executive chef and owner of Irie Spice personal catering in South Florida.
Chef Bryant Terry, eco-chef, food justice activist, and author. Terry was a 2008-2010 Food and Society Policy Fellow, a national Program of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Chef Dana Herbert, owner of Desserts by Dana and winner of TLC's 'Cake Boss Next Great Baker'.
Chef Kenny Gilbert, executive chef of Plainfield Country Club and contestant on season seven of Bravo's 'Top Chef'.
Chef Nedal Mardini, chef de cuisine of Matthews Restaurant in Jacksonville.
Chef Thierry Delourneaux, executive pastry chef at Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford in Singapore.
Chef farmer, Matthew Raiford, a sixth generation farmer behind Gilliard Farms and executive chef of Little St. Simons Island a private resort located off the coast of Georgia.
Chef Dwight Evans, who was recently awarded Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation.
Chef Duane Nutter, chef at One Flew South, voted one of the best airport restaurants; as well as mixologists, Tiffanie Barriere and Tokiwa Sears, from One Flew South.
I make the following comments as a concerned Exumian who is tired of non-Exumians trying to stop the growth and progress of the Island.
It appears that some PLP politicians in their quest for power are prepared to jeopardize the future of the people of Exuma by frustrating the largest single private employer on the island. They are treating Sandals, which is responsible for the livelihood of hundreds of Exumians and their families, as though it is not appreciated in our country.
The truth is that Sandals Emerald Bay has provided a safety net for many people on the island whose hopes were dashed when the Four Seasons hotel closed.
When Sandals came on the scene most of the commercial airlines had terminated their services even before the departure of Four Seasons, the previous operator.
Today, after just 12 months of operations, Sandals has been able to attract carriers such as Air Canada, Continental Connections, American Eagle, US Air, Delta and the domestic carriers Bahamasair, SkyBahamas and Western Airlines.
Sandals has also honored the existing agreements with Exuma Transit for the transportation of guests.
The charge of poor treatment of its employees by the hotel is totally false as is the complaint about the presence of Jamaicans on the property.
Sandals is a Jamaican investor with core expertise provided by Jamaicans who are hardworking people with good work attitudes worthy of emulation.
The fact is that as a major Caribbean and International hotel chain, Sandals employs Bahamians in a number of its hotels in its host countries including the Turks & Caicos, St. Lucia, Antigua and Jamaica.
Interestingly, no mention has been made of the many foreign nationals who worked with the former Four Seasons hotel and who treated Bahamian workers so badly. I don't recall any complaint being made about them.
As far as the charge of under-payment of staff is concerned, the government of The Bahamas has established a minimum wage. Any employer who pays workers below the minimum is in breach of the law. Anyone with proof that this is the case at Emerald Bay, should report the matter to the Department of Labour.
Indeed, the staff of the hotel should be made to understand that the property can only pay what it can afford and that higher wages could mean less staff and not so stable employment.
In any given interaction of people there will be problems; even in churches. However, I am satisfied that the resort is doing much more than its predecessor in trying to better relations with all its public.
In recent times, the hotel has been managed by some of the finest professionals of Sandals: Jeremy Mutton and Patrick Drake.
Significant efforts have been made in introducing a wide range of programs to train and upgrade staff, foster professionalism, enhance staff morale and reach out to the community and business sectors.
The hotel has introduced a wide range of programs to address training and personal development at every level, as well as entry level certification for school leavers in hospitality training and the introduction of an apprenticeship program.
In addition, there are numerous programs to enrich and enhance the everyday life of workers including luncheons, breakfasts, bingos and other recreational activities as well as access to a barber shop which provides concessionary rates to employees.
Through the Sandals Foundation, several projects are helping to transform schools and civic amenities on the island in an unprecedented manner.
For the first time in the history of Exuma, the island is blessed with a hotel choir which is a big hit whenever it appears at local churches and civic functions.
Since the acquisition of the hotel, millions of dollars have been spent on renovation and upgrading facilities, including the addition of 62 rooms, thereby increasing the capacity of the resort from 183 rooms to 245 rooms. Also, some 60 additional persons have received employment as a result of this project.
In addition, three more restaurants are to be built, providing employment for many more people.
In the current climate of unemployment in Exuma, anyone responsible for providing jobs for over 500 permanent and 100 construction workers ought to be welcomed and respected by everyone.
I believe Exumians need to examine the situation very carefully and not be fooled. They should never forget the trauma and loss of hope that came with the announcement of the closure of Four Seasons Hotel. Indeed, Exumians should be very wary of persons, who for selfish political reasons, are trying to destroy their future and the growth and stability that Sandals has brought to this Island.
I can testify that the chairman of Sandals and his entire staff have always extended a hand of friendship to the Member of Parliament for Exuma, Anthony Moss.
It is an indictment on Moss that he has failed to accept invitations he has received from a major investor in his constituency whose operations have impacted the lives, livelihood and future of so many of his constituents.
Former island administrator
A rising community in South Abaco has finished the construction of an academic institute and doctor's office for its growing number of residents.
The Schooner Bay Institute, an 1,800-square-foot facility, features more than a dozen beds, a kitchen, common rooms and conference rooms for local and visiting academics. While the institute is not your typical tourism attraction, it plays into Schooner Bay's goal of becoming an encompassing and holistic development for Bahamians and second-home owners.
"We are not a resort, we are a real community," said Glen Kelly, the town manager at Schooner Bay.
"That is why we built the clinic and research facility. It brings a new dimension to Schooner that the typical resort does not have."
Beginning next month, various organizations and specialists from The Bahamas and the U.S. will stay at the Schooner Bay Institute and study various aspects of wildlife. Fish ecology, echinoderms, predators on coral reefs and sea turtles are all specific areas of focus over the coming months.
A team from the Abaco Parrot Project will have a team from June until August.
The Schooner Bay Institute fits well into the project's sustainable and "green philosophy", while embracing nature and traditional Bahamian living.
Meanwhile, the institute also includes a 500-square-foot clinic offering medical services. Kelly told Guardian Business that a nurse will be at the clinic full time. Physicians are expected to be there once a week for appointments.
"The clinic is a trial operation with Nassau-based doctors. It allows the general public to see it. It means we'll have a group of doctors that would never otherwise come here," he explained. "Most Abaconians will go to Florida for healthcare because it is as cheap... as going to Nassau."
The clinic aims to change that, which could be particularly beneficial as Schooner Bay continues to attract more second-home buyers from abroad.
The clinic has "all the basic equipment", according to Kelly, and tele-medicine technology will be used in the case of emergencies.
According to Schooner's chief developer, the project is focused on these types of amenities so it graduates from a hamlet to the functioning town.
Back in December, Orjan Lindroth, the head of Lindroth Development Company Limited, said Schooner Bay will have up to 50 homes completed by the end of next year. He estimated that the South Abaco development has generated more than $100 million in direct expenditure over the last few years, taking into account the land, servicing, construction, sales, stamp duty and property tax.
A number of businesses are beginning to sprout up at Schooner Bay, including a general store, bed and breakfast establishments, restaurants, farms and a beach club.
In particular, the $5 million Black Fly Lodge officially opened last month. The elite, boutique hotel is reporting full occupancy for the majority of the summer.
Festival Place vendors will be relocated to a tent as of January, once renovations begin to replace the roof of the complex.
The complex hopes to lure its star tenant, Kafe Kalik, back with the renovations.
The construction is expected to continue during the first half of 2011. General Manager of the tourist-welcoming center Marcian Cooper hopes to see business stay afloat during and after construction. And Bahamian restaurant Kafe Kalik is being factored into those plans.
"We hope Kafe Kalik will be on stream once [the renovations] are complete," he told Guardian Business yesterday. "Business has been doing well with the Oasis (of the Seas cruise ship). Just from observi ...
The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) has described 2013 as a "stagnant and transitional" year with "mixed financial results" and has pointed to the need for new approaches to marketing The Bahamas in 2014.
On the bright side, the BHTA President Stuart Bowe said 2013 saw many new investments in hotel properties continue, get underway, or be announced, and has argued The Bahamas is well poised to take advantage of "unprecedented opportunity" as it enters the new year.
He was addressing the annual general meeting of the BHTA on Friday.
His comments come as the most recently released official data shows that hotel properties experienced an eight percent decline in revenue in the nine months up to October of this year, mostly due to a fall in overall occupancy levels, with growth in arrivals to The Bahamas as a whole just 2.3 percent for the period as opposed to 8.3 percent in 2012.
The "high value-added" air arrivals component fell by 6.5 percent in the first nine months of the year, in comparison to 2012's 9.4 percent gain, while expansion in sea passengers stood at 5.1 percent as opposed to eight percent in 2012.
The Central Bank's Monthly Economic and Financial Development Report indicates that up to October, The Bahamas had received 4.5 million in visitors. It described tourism performance as "lackluster", primarily due to "sustained weakness in key source markets", and contributing to "subdued" domestic economic conditions overall.
Addressing the meeting, Bowe pointed to numerous challenges that need to be tackled if Bahamian tourism is to achieve its potential, while adding that the "transition" of The Bahamas as a destination is underway.
Ongoing construction or refurbishment can be seen at properties such as Baha Mar, the Blue Diamond resort on Grand Bahama, and Resorts World Bimini, noted Bowe, introducing thousands of new or restored hotel rooms to the market.
On Eleuthera, The Cove completed a major upgrade and expanded to 70 rooms. Grand Lucaya on Grand Bahama completed major refurbishments as did Sandals, Atlantis and Comfort Suites in Nassau.
Meanwhile, San Salvador will benefit from the construction of 360 new luxury condo-hotel units to be operated by Club Med and an additional 125-room boutique hotel next to that property.
However, 2013's visitor numbers left much to be desired.
Looking back at the year to date, Bowe said: "Destination-wide, hotel room occupancies and visitor arrivals will be down, average daily room rates will show a slight increase or be flat. Visitor spending, which dropped dramatically over the recession years, is slowly improving in most tourism sectors. The destination's hotel room inventory continues to improve, with major refurbishments and developments in a number of hotels and restaurants. The improvements suggest that there will be growth in the near future."
Bowe said that affordable and sufficient airlift will be critical to the ability for The Bahamas to attract the visitors who will ensure the success of many new projects underway or on stream, and added that the BHTA, the Ministry of Tourism and the Nassau Airport Development company are all working "aggressively" on this front.
"The Nassau/Paradise Island Promotion Board has created a detailed strategy to attract over 1,200 additional daily seats by the end of 2014 and with the ministry and NAD is actively working with major airlines to generate the new lift. New approaches to marketing the destination will be a top priority early in 2014."
Meanwhile, he noted other threats to competitiveness and new oncoming challenges.
"In the midst of tremendous promise, there are the realities of our time. Government needs to address growing public debt. Higher taxes are a reality. High utility costs must be lowered. Productivity and service levels need to reach the highest global standards. Economic policies must support the growth of airlift, visitor spending and small business development."
Bowe said the BHTA is committed to addressing many of these challenges, working on various fronts to do so.
"We continue to be vigilant on workforce development at all levels. While more efforts must be undertaken to attract business and address our industry's cost challenges, we must do all that we can to manage customer service expectations."
The foreign investors seeking to acquire the Nassau Palm Hotel are planning a refurbishment to upgrade the downtown property.
According to Valentine Grimes, the Bahamian attorney representing the owners, the prospective buyers have put up considerable funds to secure the hotel located across from Junkanoo Beach. While he would not reveal the buyer, he said the group is known to the government and has done business in The Bahamas before, although not necessarily in the hotel industry.
"These people have put up initial money, and now they have put up additional money, so I don't think one could be more serious than that," he said yesterday. "They have put up more money that is non-refundable. I do know they plan to refurbish it and upgrade the facility. The hotel could use some improvement."
Just down the street from the British Colonial Hilton, the Nassau Palm Hotel inhabits a prime piece of real estate that's a stone's throw from Bay Street's commercial heart.
The area has undergone somewhat of a renaissance in recent months, as property owners have invested in new office buildings, restaurants and hotels.
The new Sparta Restaurant, located just down the street, is a culinary extension of the El Greco Beach Hotel. This destination was completely renovated in recent years and owned by Philip Davis, the son of Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis.
David Johnson, the director general at the Ministry of Tourism, called the Nassau Palm deal relatively small in the grand scheme of things.
However, he felt that the sale marks a continued revitalization of the Junkanoo Beach area.
"Clearly we can see a lot of changes in the area. The beach has been upgraded significantly," Johnson said yesterday. "It is becoming a destination within a destination. It could be another zone that contrasts with the commercial shopping area, giving people a more informal venue with lots of activity."
The Nassau Palm has been on the market since 2010. This latest bid is the third time investors have tried to strike a deal for the property.
Name: Ron Johnson
Position: Culinary artist, Savory Art Culinary & Consultation Service
Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
Ron: I've been a part of the hospitality industry since the age of 16. I was an apprentice chef at the Atlantis Resort & Casino and eventually left my post for educational pursuits. However, during my tenure at the property, I've always felt a strong sense of pride and responsibility ensuring guest satisfaction, simultaneously pleasing my superiors. Whether local or international cuisine was requested, working independently or with a team, contentment was the primary goal. It should be noted that in most areas of people activity, food is involved either in overt or subtle ways.
After attaining my formal educational goals, I've currently been active as a personal/private chef for celebrities, affluent individuals and occasionally working aboard yachts (seven in total thus far), cruising to the Exuma Cays and sometimes Harbour Island, showcasing elements of island flare and other cuisines to the best of my ability. At 31, I would see myself as a culinary ambassador of sorts, particularly to those unfamiliar with tropical cuisine.
GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Ron: At first, the career chose me, along with my mother's stern guidance and foresight. After graduation from high school, I had no idea of what path I would take. I felt idle, without purpose and eager to make a quick buck. I enrolled at The Bahamas Hotel Training College (now called School of Hospitality Training Studies) and found myself performing fairly well, particularly out of fear and love. The fears of letting anybody think I was inadequate were intertwined with my affinity for the profession.
I eventually simmered down and found it was something that I could handle fairly well. It allowed me to be creative with my hands, only limited to what my mind could conceive. A friend told me that certain African tribes believed that your spirit/vibe was transferred into your food creations. I would hope people get an overwhelming sense of love and commitment when they taste what I create.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Ron: Most experiences I've had thus far have their own merit in my life. One in particular, as Montell Williams personal chef aboard a three-week yacht trip throughout the Exuma Cays, still permeates in my memory. Although I've had the pleasure of cooking for him a few times prior to the most recent trip, we had a chance to really have in depth discussions about my future in general and I got to interact on a higher level with his family and staff; they were truly appreciative of what I fed them and the level of professionalism I maintained. Beware of getting too 'familiar' with a guest or client by the way.
Notwithstanding, they were appreciative to the point that they questioned and hesitated dining out on other yachts they got invited on or local restaurants because the precedent I set made them compare my performance; they said it was better than others. The reassuring moment came when he complimented my mother about my professionalism and gave me a hefty 'thank you' gift that made me smile from ear to ear; he personally gave me his contact information as well.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Ron: Where to begin? I'm a bit at a disadvantage properly responding to this, as my personalized service isolates me to a degree. However, I converse with colleagues and make observations as well. On a side note, the common misperception is that when one sees a chef jacket of sorts, they automatically assume you are employed at a hotel. There are other atypical, unconventional places chefs work at such as stand-alone restaurants and chocolate factories, as well as in positions as personal chefs, food and beverage directors and managers of franchises and supermarkets. The industry has changed in other ways as well to my knowledge. As we are in the Information Age, access to revered techniques, recipes and ideas are easily accessible at the speed of touch and type. I'm also noticing a stronger push for utilizing native grown produce.
GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Ron: This is a hard question to answer in that a definite response does not justly address a myriad of issues one may perceive. However, I can speak to factors such as nutrition, redefining and elevating our cuisine and adapting more European culinary disciplines in our forte. Generally speaking, our food is truly tasty and satiating. Tourists from across the globe make an effort to try chowders, stews and souses, fritters, peas n' rice, Bahama Mamas and other local gastronomy. Adversely, our diet impairs our health. Finding creative ways to preserve or create new flavors with an emphasis on wellbeing for the health conscious or apprehensive tourist (or native) is barely exploited.
Lastly, for those with a high appreciation of fine dining, we can improve on presentation and modern techniques; the taste is already there.. I'd like to see a Bahamian restaurant achieve a Michelin Star or three, fully exploiting local produce. That would definitely garner attention to our country and perhaps promote more food-based tourism to a different audience.
Construction is underway on a $25 million office complex set for western New Providence.
Ground was recently broken on the 68,000-square-foot commercial development, The Windsor Professional Centre, located on Windsor Field Road.
Sonya Alvino, the project's manager, told Guardian Business that the commercial development has been zoned for professionals like bankers, lawyers, engineers and architects.
"We have got our contractors in there right now preparing the site and putting in infrastructure and utilities. We're in the first phase of development with just three of the buildings. We are hoping to get cracking on those as site development is done," she noted.
Alvino estimates that $4 million will be injected into the project's first phase and it will take 18 months to complete.
"The first three buildings are 15,000 square feet and we are building 68,400 square feet overall. We will probably build three buildings at a time just as we are doing in this phase or as the market demands," she said.
The Windsor Professional Centre is located within five minutes of retailers, restaurants, Sir Lynden Pindling International Airport and many gated communities including Lyford Cay, Old Fort Bay and Albany.
"It is located in western New Providence, which is fast becoming the hub of commercial activity in Nassau. We're hoping to attract people looking for a second office outside of the city center or trying to escape the city center. We are seeing a lot of lawyers looking for a second location down by Lyford Cay and Old Fort. They are looking to service that type of exclusive neighborhood," Alvino shared.
The site will also feature upscale warehousing space.
Stefan Russel of the architectural firm CDS designed the multimillion-dollar project, while a professional landscape planning and design firm headed by Michael Myers was engaged to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. DHP Associates will manage the bidding process and the construction contract.
The Windsor Centre will consist of seven 5,000-square-foot buildings each comprised of two 2,500-square-foot units; two 7,500-square-foot buildings comprised of four units at 1,875 square feet and two 9,200-square- foot buildings each with multiple units at various sizes.
The 2,500-square-foot units will include customized design consultation for interior fit outs, hurricane-proof windows and doors, travertine floors, superior molding and base boards, luscious landscaping and attention to every detail.
Each unit will have or have access to a beautifully landscaped courtyard. A property owners association that offers 24-hour security and manages parking, landscaping and individualized generators for every unit will maintain the overall site.
"These units offer the professional community a quality product at an affordable price and an escape from the hustle and bustle of Nassau. They are also turnkey units to minimize the impact of relocating," according to Alvino.
A group of Bahamian entrepreneurs, including experts in planning and development, are the shareholders behind the new Windsor Professional Centre office complex.
A 15-minute video on the impact Value Added Tax (VAT) has had on the twin-island state of St. Kitts & Nevis has been making the social media rounds in recent weeks, posted and re-posted by many Bahamians linked in the online community.
The video, moderated by Rev. Conrad Howell of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), was created ahead of what had been the planned April 1, 2013 implementation of VAT in TCI.
The video features a number of prominent citizens of St. Kitts & Nevis, including business leaders, former Minister of Finance Richard Caines, and also everyday citizens outlining the "negative" impacts VAT has had on their economy since its implementation three years ago.
Business leaders speak of having to close their businesses, of the sharp and sudden rise in the cost of living. Other citizens speak of the stunning decline in their quality of life.
Such reports have increased fears among an already worried Bahamian population preparing for the introduction of VAT at a rate of 15 percent on July 1, 2014.
In the absence of information on the likely impact of VAT on their way of life, and on their economy, many Bahamians view this video as a model of things to come, notwithstanding recent reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that St. Kitts & Nevis is seeing signs of an economic recovery.
Calvin Cable, executive director of the St. Kitts & Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, told National Review that VAT had a "multiplier effect in terms of hardships on the populace".
Cable said a consumption tax was removed and the VAT of 17 percent was introduced.
Two other taxes, the customs duty and the customs service charge, were retained in addition to the 17 percent VAT, he explained.
"It was tremendous on the cost of living," Cable said. "You could have felt it in the number of packages being taken out by householders out of the supermarkets because the prices of goods went up pretty high, maybe about 25 percent overnight."
As a result of VAT, many people in St. Kitts & Nevis cut back significantly, he said; many of them eliminated all luxuries.
"People stopped going out to restaurants to eat and that sort of thing because it was proving to be too much to carry," he said.
VAT is viewed by governments as an attractive option as it taxes both goods and services.
The current narrow based tax system in The Bahamas has long been in need of an overhaul, according to government officials and various international agencies examining The Bahamas' tax structure.
Cable also noted that prior to the implementation of VAT, there were very few charges or taxes on services in St. Kitts & Nevis.
"And so, what the population had to deal with now was that services were being charged VAT, which was not the custom before," he said.
"For instance, doctors fees, lawyers fees, services in the tourism sector -- and I know The Bahamas is big on tourism. For instance, rented cars had to pay the 17 percent."
Cable said VAT provided a "windfall" for the government in taking from the services sector, "but most of that was coming out of the local population".
"So the amount of disposable income that they had on their side was drastically reduced and the buying power was drastically diminished," he said.
In St. Kitts & Nevis, VAT is credited with bolstering the government's fiscal position, but Cable said it happened "on the backs of the local people".
Prior to the implementation of VAT, the country experienced debt levels above 200 percent, which made it one of the world's most indebted countries.
The debt to GDP ratio is now inching closer to the 100 percent mark.
St. Kitts and Nevis' Minister of Information Nigel Carty previously pointed to the "herculean effort that has been exerted to bring great relief to the country's fiscal position at such an economically challenging time".
While The Bahamas' debt situation has not been as dire as that of St. Kitts & Nevis, it has reached a position where it is now unsustainable.
The Bahamas government has outlined its own efforts to bring relief to this country's fiscal position.
As we noted in this space last week, government debt as at June 30, 2014 is projected to be $4.9 billion, compared to $2.4 billion as at July 2007.
Over the last two fiscal years, the government has seen a total deficit in excess of $500 million.
Almost one out of every four dollars in revenue collected by the government must be allocated to pay the interest charges on the public debt and cover the debt repayment.
With a significant change in the country's tax system on the horizon, The Bahamas government has not yet produced any studies to show the likely impact VAT will have on the cost of living.
In every sector, there are understandably questions about how this new regime will affect business.
The man and woman on the street are equally concerned, as they already exist in a climate of high unemployment, where many are finding it hard to meet their obligations and disposable spending has been stretched to the limit.
The government is now asking citizens to shoulder the burden of reversing a burdensome debt situation.
Again, there is no doubting that it is time for action. The chosen route is of course value added tax, which the government says is a central element of its tax reform strategy.
A new IMF report "Tax Reforms for Increased Buoyancy", which was prepared for the government, notes that The Bahamas has low taxes compared to the rest of the world, excluding Central American countries.
It points out that many countries in the region have already introduced VAT, thus providing "a stable source of tax revenues".
The report notes further that almost all the countries in the region have taxes on income and profits. Furthermore, they have high excises on petroleum products.
While The Bahamas is only now moving in the direction of VAT, several of its Caribbean neighbors -- among them, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago -- implemented VAT more than a decade ago.
Speaking of the Barbados experience, Lalu Vaswani, president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, described VAT as a "very efficient means of collecting tax as it increases the base on which the taxes can be collected".
"I think it has been a positive impact, although it was not without its challenges," Vaswani said in an interview with National Review.
Vaswani said that prior to the implementation of VAT in Barbados in 1997, the country had as many as 11 different types of duties or imposts that could be charged on imports.
"The increased effectiveness of collecting revenue gave the government more scope to do their development projects," Vaswani said.
"From a business perspective, there are always anxieties associated with changes, and it is always desirable that there is a maximum amount of consultations even when the final positions are not known.
"So there is an understanding from ground level what are the goals, specific objectives and how you propose to do it because very often what you theoretically are trying to do may have a unique challenge, which may be identified before it is implemented and resolved and prevented."
Former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur noted in a 2010 interview with Erasmus Williams, press secretary to the prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, that high debt levels are inevitable in the absence of a tax base to generate the revenue needed to run a country.
"I supported the VAT when I was in opposition in Barbados because I thought it stood the test of reasonableness, but it was absolutely necessary," said Arthur, whose administration introduced VAT.
"You're living in a set of countries where year by year, period by period, governments will have to remove import duties. What are you going to replace them with? And that is the basic question."
Arthur said VAT created the basis for sustained growth "without fiscal difficulties".
"It allowed us to be able to introduce programs to aggressively mount and sustain policies to eradicate poverty and we did that by creating the base for sustainable growth in the country," he said.
The most recent Caribbean country to implement VAT was St. Lucia, which did so just over a year ago at a rate of 15 percent.
Gerard Bergasse, president of the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture, noted that VAT pulls more people into the tax net.
"When you are relying on other forms of taxation, they are not as broad based, so you have a much narrower tax base, which means that the tax on those people has to be higher to achieve your revenue targets," Bergasse told National Review.
"But when you have a broad based tax like VAT, it means that everybody is contributing, so it makes it fairer. And it does not take the fiscal tool out of government's hands because they can still zero rate items, or zero rate a basket of goods that they feel would help less advantaged people."
The Bahamas government's White Paper on Tax Reform notes that zero-rating a supply implies applying a zero VAT rate and allowing credits for VAT paid on inputs.
It says that zero-rating should definitely be applied to exports as a VAT is designed to tax only domestic consumption. Other than that, zero-rating should be strictly limited, if utilized at all, the document says.
Bergasse said that based on anecdotal evidence, many people would say that VAT was a necessary evil in St. Lucia.
"I still believe that VAT was the right thing for the government to have done and it's moving in the right direction," Bergasse said.
He said while the government is not now experiencing a huge windfall, as far as he is aware its revenue targets have been met.
Bergasse said the Chamber of Commerce supported the implementation of VAT from the beginning and was a part of the government's pre-implementation VAT team.
Bergasse pointed to the need for proper consultations ahead of the implementation of VAT.
But he recognized that making VAT understandable to a cross-section of people is "very difficult".
"I will warrant that there are still business people in St. Lucia who still do not understand VAT," Bergasse said.
"...It is a bit of a complicated tax, so it does take people a while to wrap their heads around it and it does make a difference the way your legislation is structured. We didn't get the legislation until very late in the day and even after we got the legislation there are the regulations that go along with it that are very important, because the legislation is the 'what'; the regulations are the 'how'."
He noted that the fundamental change created by VAT is that the business community is changed from being solely taxpayers to being tax collectors.
When properly structured, VAT is a tax on consumption, not business.
In The Bahamas, the proposed VAT legislation and regulations have not yet been released to the public, so the specifics are still unknown.
The government, meanwhile, is planning on increasing public education and awareness in a series of meetings set to begin this week.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said the July 1 implementation date is not set in stone and he, as minister of finance, needs to be satisfied that businesses and the country at large are ready for the implementation of VAT.
As the government prepares to intensify public education on VAT, it is hoping to quiet what appears to be growing public sentiment against VAT.
HIGHGROVE SINGERS: A Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols with The Highgrove Singers under the conduction of Adrian Archer and the Golden Gates Hand Bell Choir under the conduction of Navarro Gibson will take place on Sunday, December 22 at 6 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral, George Street. Music to be played will be by Bob Chilcott, Steve Pilkington, Benjamin Britten, Sean Ivory, Jan Sandstrom, Neil Harmon, Eleanor Daley, Dan Forrest, Craig Courtney, Laura Paige, Andrew Carter, Daniel Elder, David Danner, Paul Caldwell and congregational carol singing with musical arrangements by Sir David Willcocks. Admission is free.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: The changing of the guard, a display of Bahamian music and military exercise, takes place each month on the last Thursday and Saturday at 10 a.m. at Government House. The changing of the guard has been a tradition since 1958. The ceremony features the world-renowned Royal Bahamas Police Force Marching Band and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force guards.
JAZZ AT THE HILTON: Jazz group Vice Versa, featuring vocalist Naomi Taylor, performs every Tuesday and Thursday at British Colonial Hilton at 6:30 p.m.
SPEED WEEK: Bahamas Speed Week takes place December 4-8. This event, which started in the mid-1950s and took place for 13 years, was the dream of a man named Captain Sherman 'Red' Cruise, who created a series of automobile races held in Nassau. Internationally acclaimed drivers from around the globe attended to compete and to soak in the backdrop of sun, sea and scorching hot cars.
Schedule: Saturday, December 7 (6 p.m. - 8:3- p.m.) - Hill climb at Arawak Cay, Fort Charlotte. General viewing is free; Bleachers A, B, C $25; Race car paddock $50; VIP driver's lounger $175 (located in the center of the circuit, inclusive of food and beverage by Van Breugels, Young's Champagne, Sands Beer, assorted wine and liquor and soft drinks, exclusive bleacher seating, meet the drivers, browse the race car paddock, souvenir program and VIP parking) and Paddock club piazza $75 (located in the center of the circuit, a la carte food and beverage from vendors, exclusive bleacher seating, browse the car paddock, souvenir program and VIP parking). Sunday, December 8 - Race car sprint (9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.) at Arawak Cay Sprint Circuit. General viewing is free; Bleachers A, B, C $25; Race car paddock $50; VIP driver's lounge $275 and Paddock club piazza $85.
CELEBRITY TENNIS: The Mark Knowles Celebrity Tennis Invitational takes place December 5-8. Established in 2001, the annual event is a fundraising event to support local charities throughout The Bahamas. For more information, telephone 357-9679.
GYMNASTICS: Teams from the United States, Trinidad and Tobago and The Bahamas converge on the Atlantis Crown Convention Center for the Atlantis Crown International Gymnastics Tournament, the largest competitive meet in the Caribbean, December 12-14. For more information, telephone 327-2154.
JUNKANOO: Boxing Day Junkanoo takes place Thursday, December 26. For more information, telephone 302-2000.
HAIR SHOW: Pizazz Beauty Shop presents Imagine Hair Show & Competition, dubbed The Ultimate Hair Show to be held on Sunday, December 15 at the Grand Lucayan Convention Center. Making an appearance will be Seven Adrin Washington, Karlie Redd and Derek J. Tickets are $40 general admission, $65 VIP and can be purchased at Gizmos & Gadgets.
FESTIVAL NOEL: Restaurants and students from around Grand Bahama are getting ready to deck the park with delicious cuisine at the 19th Annual Festival Noel on Friday, December 6 at the Rand Nature Centre. This year's committee has resurrected the Chef Noel competition in which local restaurants, Flying Fish, Sweet Affairs, Red Beard's and Agave will compete.
CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL: The Annual Abaco Christmas Festival takes place on Saturday, December 7. This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the popular Christmas festival that is known to attract family and friends. The event usually kicks off the holiday season in the Abacos with general holiday activities that include early Christmas shopping in the Arts & Crafts Bazaar, a food court filled with Bahamian dishes, performances from choirs, quartets, soloists, marching and Calypso bands, a Junkanoo parade, a Christmas float parade, a dog show and other activities. For more information, telephone 367-3067,
JUNKANOO: The Annual Christmas Junkanoo Competition takes place on Saturday, December 28 at Sea Spray Resort & Marina in Elbow Cay, featuring a number of local groups who compete for top honor and bragging rights. Residents of the cay are joined by locals and visitors who travel from the mainland to enjoy the elaborate costumes, music and lively performances that are paraded during the night-time event. For more information, telephone 366-0065.
BOXING DAY JUNKANOO: Boxing Day Junkanoo celebrations, the spectacular Bahamian street festival with the sounds of goat skin drums, horns, whistles, cow bells, dancers and bright dazzling costumes, will take place in Acklins & Crooked Island on Thursday, December 26. Food will be on sale. For more information, telephone 344-3250-1.
CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL: The Berry Islands' Christmas Festival, which celebrates the yuletide season and features a Christmas tree lighting, visit by Santa and caroling, music, pantomime and liturgical dance expressions in concert, local cuisine reception, arts and craft and a Junkanoo parade, will take place on Friday, December 6. It is also a celebration of achievements within the community and a homecoming for residents and visitors to the Berry Islands. For more information, telephone 367-8291.
JUNKANOO: The Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade will take place on Thursday, December 26. It is a spectacular street festival with the sounds of goatskin drums, horns, whistles, cowbells and costumes featuring the competitive beats of Bimini Tum Tums and Bimini Stompers. The venue is Alice Town in North Bimini. For more information, telephone 347-3529.
Eleuthera & Harbour Island
JUNKANOO: Eleuthera and Harbour Island will take to the streets for the Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade on Thursday, December 26. The venue is Tarpum Bay, South Eleuthera. For more information, telephone 332-2142.
TREE LIGHTING: Locals and visitors gather in Regatta Park to sing carols and see performances by local talent on Thursday, December 12. For the grand finale, Regatta Park is transformed with thousands of lights. For more information, contact Felicia Saunders at 336-2390.
JUNKANOO: The Christmas holidays culminate with a Junkanoo parade on Thursday, December 26. For more information, contact 336-2370.
BAZAAR: St. Peter's & Paul's Catholic Church's Annual Bazaar take place on Thursday, December 26. The fair raises funds to assist with the maintenance and building projects of the seven Catholic churches on the island. Native dishes, music and games will be the order of the day. The venue is The Big Yard Grounds in Clarence Town. For more information, telephone 333-8868.
FORMAL DINNER PARTY: Stella Maris Resort New Year's Eve Formal Dinner Party takes place December 31-January 1 and is the party of the year on Long Island. It is a great way to ring in the new year. Reservations are required due to limited seating. Dress is formal. For more information, telephone 338-8668.
TREE LIGHTING: The Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place Sunday, December 15. For more information, telephone 428-4943 or 331-1870.
MINI-JUNKANOO: A mini-Junkanoo parade takes place on Rum Cay on Thursday, December 26. For more information, telephone 331-2816 or 331-2806.
MINI-JUNKANOO: A mini-Junkanoo parade takes place on Thursday, December 26. For more information, telephone 452-0161.
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