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The shift has started -- and it's a celebration of two of life's greatest pleasures -- food and champagne.
Indulge in new gourmet delights of an invigorated Hope Town Lodge culinary team and sip on bubbly libations of Nassau-based distributor, Young's Champagne, during an amazing weekend, September 14-16 that is being billed as the "Great Love Affairs Start with Champagne" weekend. It will definitely be a food lover's paradise kind of event wrapped up into a romantic weekend.
To introduce Bahamians to the new Hope Town Harbour Lodge, a special package that includes roundtrip airfare, two nights and three days accommodation at the lodge, taxi and ferry to the lodge on Elbow Cay, along with the fabulous eating events -- the Bubbles and Bites, the Wine and Dine, the Trunk Show and the Mimosa Brunch - is being offered at $395 per person.
"We're trying to target locals from Nassau to come in and experience Hope Town, so I think it's a great opportunity for us to showcase our menu and start showcasing the shift," said Leesa Fountain, a representative at the lodge, "Because the menu items at this event will slowly be integrated into the menu at the lodge over time."
The menu items will be integrated into the two food and beverage restaurants at the lodge -- The Reef Bar and Grill, which is the poolside and ocean side bar and grill where they serve breakfast and lunch, and where cocktails are offered in the afternoon, and The Great Room and Ray's Place, their fine dining room where dinner is served.
The new menu will showcase small bites and tapas-style dining.
At Friday's Bubbles & Bites event, Henriot Brut Souverain (superb balance and finesse) will be served with avocado gazpacho spoons. Laherte Freres Brut Nature (superbly light, delicate and with a slight oak note to finish) will be served with seafood samosas and lobster spring rolls. Fernand Thill Millesime 2006 - Grand Cru Champagne (buttery, soft, delicate tour de force) will be served with smoked guava BBQ riblets and Caribbean spice chicken wings and Ellner Brut Rose (great fruit and subtlety) will be served with grilled fruit bruschetta and hand-wrapped dark chocolate.
Saturday night's Wine and Dine event will feature a glass of French Chardonnay or French Pinot Noir with a choice of roasted corn chowder or HTL house salad, lionfish ceviche, catch of the day or sage and olive stuffed lamb loin, warm coconut and cranberry bread pudding with coconut vanilla sauce and a glass of Ellner Brut Rose and tea or coffee.
The mimosa brunch event will feature Bertrand Devavry Brut Extra Quality Grand Reserve with a medley of orange, mango and passion fruit juices. A roasted vegetable quiche will be served with the savory first course. With a sweet stuffed island French toast served for the second course, followed by tea or coffee.
Fountain encourages people who want to experience the weekend to book early, as the lodge only has 25 rooms.
"Don't wait, especially if you're coming from Nassau, because we only have 25 rooms and it's a really good deal," she said of the $395 package they're offering.
Patrons will also get to experience the resort that is seeking to increase sustainability by focusing on local buying power.
"Sustainability is by no means a new term at Hope Town Lodge as a number of best practices are already in place, but thanks to its new owners, the Bahamas Boutique Hotel Group and its partner UpSouth Resorts and Hotels, Hope Town Lodge will expand its sustainability efforts by developing stronger relationships with local business owners by supporting locally owned Abaconian and Bahamian businesses.
"Buying local is simply better business," said Mike Hartman, founder of UpSouth and former developer and operator of the award-winning Tiamo on South Andros.
"Not only does it reduce the environmental impact associated with the transportation of imported goods, but buying local promotes food security, ensures freshness and quality product," he said.
"With Abaco's network of fishermen and farmers, creating a farm to table or sea to table dining experience that reflects and supports Abaco is better for our pockets and for our guests," said Hartman. "With 90 percent of the entire food supply for The Bahamas being imported, creating relationships with local suppliers is critical in reducing time and costs. Furthermore, guests can learn the who, how and where of the food they enjoy, creating a direct connection to place and in turn leading to a deeper, more authentic experience," he said.
"It's going to be different from anything The Bahamas has ever seen because we're going to be sourcing locally, and drawing inspiration from all the different Caribbean islands and maybe even Latin America, so I'm excited for that," he said.
Great Love Affairs Start with Champagne
Bubbles & Bites
Henriot Brut Souverain (superb balance and finesse) with avocado gazpacho spoons
Laherte Freres Brut Nature (superbly light, delicate and with a slight oak note to finish) with seafood samosas and lobster spring rolls
Fernand Thill Millesime 2006 - Grand Cru Champagne (buttery, soft, delicate tour de force) with smoked guava BBQ riblets and Caribbean spice chicken wings
Ellner Brut Rose (great fruit and subtlety) with grilled fruit bruschetta and hand-wrapped dark chocolate
700 Experience Trunk Show -- A sneak peak of the lodge's new 700 Experience Boutique which is scheduled to open mid-November. The show will feature a small collection of Bahamian sourced resort wear, jewelry and home décor. Tea and light bites will also be served.
Wine and Dine
A glass of French Chardonnay or French Pinot Noir
Choice of roasted corn chowder or HTL house salad
Catch of the day or sage and olive stuffed lamb loin
Warm coconut and cranberry bread pudding with coconut vanilla sauce and a glass of Ellner Brut Rose
Tea or coffee
Bertrand Devavry Brut Extra Quality Grand Reserve with a medley of orange, mango and passion fruit juices
First course (savory) roasted vegetable quiche
Second course (sweet) stuffed island French toast
Tea or coffee
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.
His name is Keith Gray, but to the people who heard him perform at the Extraordinary People concert in Paris, France, the gospel artist is known as "Halle", short for "Hallelujah".
The 21-year-old busboy, who works at the Bahamian Club restaurant at Atlantis, began using his singing talent to praise God shortly after he attained his 17th birthday, when he said he realized that doing anything unless it was for and to God was selfish. Since then, he has grown from singer to a Christian youth activist. In October 2013, he won the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture's Pacesetter Award in creative arts.
The award was given to the most outstanding Bahamian under 25 who had contributed significantly to arts and culture. Gray did it not only with his singing but by helping other young people find and express their talents.
As the founder of OCD (Obsessively Christ Driven), Gray uses the platform to bring together various Christian artists to stage concerts that include music, dance and poetry. OCD also regularly does community service, which Gray said is critical to its mission "to display God's glorious grace that will stir a passion in the hearts of people for him through love service and ministry".
The success of OCD led to Gray's latest initiative, Four-Walls Down, which encourages church members to go out into the community, providing love and service beyond the church's four walls. Gray hopes that more young men will be inspired to live better lives through the work of his team.
"We don't have a gang problem or a drug problem, but an identity problem," said the activist. We need to go back to what gives us identity and purpose and that comes from the creator. Go back to the creator and find true identity in him, and that's where you find real purpose. Be everything God wants you to be, instead of others. Don't live your life for other people who won't be into you anyway. Live your life for God."
Gray, who maintains a full-time job while working on obtaining a degree, performing and engaging in community organizing, said he is able to do it all because of a combination of balance, God and an intense desire to learn and give.
"Take everything one day at a time" is his advice.
With millions in investment and hundreds of employees, the rela- tionship between Atlantis and The Alicart Restaurant Group now represents an integral driver in the New Providence economy and there is reason to believe it could get even bigger.
Virgil's, the $10 million restaurant, held its grand opening this week amid great hopes and expec- tations. Boasting around 470 seats, it joins Carmines as another large- scale eatery on the resort.
Combined, that means there are more than 1,000 seats flying under the Alicart and Atlantis banner, creating jobs for nearly 400 Bahamians.
"In high season, we can probably push the number of seats at Virgil's to 650," said Jeffrey Bank, the CEO of Alicart.
"Carmines has around 350 or so. What we have done is fulfill a need brought on by a tremendous volume of guests. Our partnership with Kerzner International is great and we're open to more concepts. They get us and we get them. We'll stumble into the next project with them."
The grand opening of Virgil's at Atlantis is just the latest develop- ment in a company under rapid expansion.
Bank told Guardian Business that Alicart generally tries to open an new restaurant "at least once a year". Prior to the $10 million Virgil's, Alicart launched a Carmines in Washington D.C., and the company is currently in advanced talks to bring the fran- chise to Las Vegas.
In total, Alicart owns and operates seven restaurants, employs more than 1,000 people and owns the rights to 29 different restaurant concepts.
The other Virgil's, located in New York City's Times Square, is "one of the busiest restaurants in the country", according to Bank.
It's a hefty resume that has fit in well with the Atlantis business model.
And while there is room for further projects down the line, Bank said Alicart is still grappling with the giant that is Virgil's.
"For right now, this is obviously a big project," he explained. "This has got to be the biggest barbecue restaurant in the Caribbean, if not North America. We need to ease into things gradually."
Virgil's is in the midst of a "soft launch", whereby it's taking on limited capacity as it kicks the tires and trains its staff. The restaurant served around 500 guests on its opening day on Tuesday, Bank
said, and employees were forced to turn some guests away.
"We are big believers in the soft opening," he added.
"Every day is a judgement in terms of ramping things up. We want things to go well and it's no fair for someone who is on a vaca- tion to not get excellent service."
A huge part of that process, Bank felt, is training.
There are currently five Alicart employees on hand at Virgil's showing the nearly 200 Bahamian employees the ropes.
The company's presence will be lessened over time, followed by monthly visits from senior execu- tives. Meanwhile, Alicart is engaged in a training program with Bahamians that will see a handful fly to New York City in January to gain further expertise.
"We are always looking for peo- ple to move up," Bank said.
"Now that we have opened, we'll be identifying people to bring back to New York."
Perhaps one of the more specialized positions at Virgil's is the role of "Pit Master".
Bank told Guardian Business that the current Pit Master is on hand from New York. The Pit Master of the future, a Bahamian, spent six months in the U.S. prior to the opening of Virgil's. He's now back in Nassau and working under his American counterpart.
Within a year, the Bahamian will be taking over the smokers.
Time may not be completely on their side, however. Bank said Atlantis is expected near full capacity over Thanksgiving Weekend, as a number of special events, such as the college basket- ball tournament, are being planned.
"We expect to be off the races by Thanksgiving Weekend," he added.
"Many of the teams have booked private rooms. Atlantis will be at full capacity and I'm expecting it to be a happy problem."
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By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAMBOO Shack owner Elaine Pinder has told Tribune Business things were looking "positive" in terms of franchising the restaurant chain in the United States while locally plans were on stream for the introduction of its first drive-through service and expansion to Freeport.
"We're expanding a lot locally but we are preparing ourselves for expansion abroad as well," said Mrs Pinder.
In terms of expanding abroad, Mrs Pinder could not give a definitive timeline on when it would take place but said it was a process.
"It's a process. It takes a lot of work and lot of planning. Standards, rules and re ...
EXUMA, The Bahamas - The Ministry of Tourism proved that its sports tourism initiatives are not limited to New Providence, as the island of Exuma hosted the inaugural Sandals Celebrity Getaway and Golf Weekend at the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in Great Exuma this past weekend.
A number of celebrities made appearances at the event, including the husband and wife team of Rodney and Holly Robinson-Peete, Alan Thicke, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, Steven Bauer and Garcelle Beauvais, just to name a few.
Golf legend Greg 'The Shark' Norman flew in from China on Friday evening and was the featured attraction. He conducted a clinic for about 50 Bahamian youngsters at the driving range on the golf course and led a team of five celebrities trying to sink a historic "hole-in-one" for a $1 million donation to charity.
Pet Hanna from the Ministry of Tourism's office in Exuma said that when you have this caliber of visitor coming to Exuma, the benefits are going to be endless.
"Exuma on the whole was very excited about this tournament," said Hanna. "This is going to bring benefits for years to come. Just the idea of celebrities coming here for golf brings a lot of excitement to these shores. They will go back to their respective shows, or areas of work, talking about how they spent the weekend at Sandals in Exuma," she added.
There were a number of activities planned for the celebrities this past weekend, and some of them even ventured out of the regular confines of Sandals Emerald Bay to tour the island. Some of the guests even swam with the pigs at Staniel Cay. For most, the many amenities of Sandals Emerald Bay were quite sufficient though.
"People are going to want to come down and see where Sandals is, see the beauty of the water and the island itself," said Hanna. "The Ministry of Tourism is very excited about projects like these because they are high end and they will pay dividends for Exuma and the entire Bahamas for a number of years.
"When you look at the taxi drivers, the restaurants, the on-shore activities, the water sports, all of these entities are going to benefit. This is just the beginning. Next year, the tournament is going to be bigger and better."
As the event grows from year to year, Hanna expects the number of participants to increase as well. It is the first high end celebrity golf event to be held in Exuma, and just the second in The Bahamas, following in the footsteps of the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational which was held at the One&Only Ocean Club Golf Course, for 10 straight years, from 2000 to 2010.
"The more we could get the word out about Exuma - the beauty of the waters and the hospitality of the people, the better for the tourism product in Exuma," said Hanna. "I'm very excited, and on behalf of the entire Exuma community, this is the kind of events that we are hoping that the government continues to support," she added.
Proceeds from the event went in support of the Sandals Foundation, which funds projects in the Caribbean in three key areas - education, environment and community.
Despite the decision of restaurant chain Sbarro to file for bankruptcy this week in the United States, and business in The Bahamas dropping by 50 percent over the past five years, sales at the local restaurants are looking up, according to the brand's Managing Director Charlton Knowles.
He confirmed to Guardian Business that sales "have been climbing every month" within the last year for the company.
"While it's unfortunate what's happening in the U.S., that will not impact our business in any way here in The Bahamas," he explained.
"Sales have been encouraging but it's not definitely at the levels they were prior to the recession. We're still a long way from achieving those numbers.
Between 2008 and 2013, sales dropped by about 50 percent. But now, we are starting to see sales climb back up. It has been gradually going up from year to year. From 2013 to 2014, sales are coming back. For us, sales have been climbing every month since the new board of directors was put in place a year ago."
Knowles believes a full economic turnaround for the pizza eatery will depend on the success of the multibillion-dollar Baha Mar project, the impact it will have on the Bahamian economy and the access that travelers will have to disposable income.
On Monday, Sbarro filed for Chapter 11-bankruptcy protection. According to court filings, the pizza chain and its affiliates have between $100 million and $500 million in debt. It is the second time the company has filed for bankruptcy in less than three years. Sbarro had filed back in 2011 and was working its way out of debt.
The franchise has four locations locally: Downtown, in the Mall at Marathon, on Cable Beach and Carmichael Road, with 68 employees.
"Our company is a separate holding company from the U.S. chain," he said.
"We're not affected by what's going on at the Sbarro corporation. That's a U.S. affair and not a Bahamian affair. Now had we had been corporate owned like the one in the U.S., their operations would have impacted us here in The Bahamas. But that's not the case because we are operating independently."
Sbarro, including franchises, has more than 1,000 locations in 45 countries. The chain opened its first location in Brooklyn in 1956.
Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in The Bahamas are being encouraged to explore opportunities in the tourism industry, with CARICOM officials arguing it offers personal and national benefits.
"The SMEs within tourism really make the product," said Allyson Francis, trade in services specialist with CARICOM. "When we highlight the tourism sector, we're not only talking about persons related to tourism but all tour operators and tour guides, restaurants, people with dive fishing. . . it's not all about the sun, sea and sand and if you don't have these activities, persons may not even be attracted to the destination.
"These persons are already critical in the whole development of the tourism product."
It's a message she hopes to drive home with industry insiders yesterday at the first Regional Seminar on Tourism - SMEs and Tourism Development in the Caribbean Region. Francis said the mindset of tourism centering around only hotels should be changed and that the tourism product will only become more competitive with more projects outside of the hotel doors.
The argument has been made several times in the nation, but analysts insist it still remains relevant. Still, Francis notes challenges that many businesses face with trying to fill the void in terms of offerings.
"From a regional stand point, the issue there is financing available that they are not fully aware of," she added. "Even if they are aware of financing, the mechanisms or the procedures they have to go through to access the financing are difficult.
"It's not a Bahamian issue, it's a regional issue in terms of accessing funding that is available."
She encouraged businesses to make better use of support organizations like the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, that have access to information. She said they also play a critical role in growing SME involvement in the tourism industry.
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.
Last week we noted that although the Ingraham administration steered us through a treacherous period in world economic history it has not completely come up smelling like roses. There have been some unpleasant consequences to the administration's choices and there were, in my view, many missed opportunities.
CULTURE AND INDUSTRY
The FNM's investments in tourism infrastructure (the harbor dredging, the port move and the new airport terminal), are largely making way for anticipated tourism growth in the medium to long-term. That's not necessarily a foolish or irresponsible choice to make.
The problem is such investments won't yield the desired results unless you seriously address some of the reasons The Bahamas is no longer a hot ticket.
We are facing ever diminishing returns in tourism. Despite the millions who come here on cruise ships, what we really need are stopover visitors and this is where we've been dead in the water. We have had more cruise ship visitors than stopover visitors since the mid 80s.
We are a far more expensive destination than many competitors south of us and that's not about to change. But where we are also losing is that we are culturally far less interesting. Not enough of an investment has been made to actually make The Bahamas a more distinct and attractive destination. Beaches, casinos and sunshine can be found all over the globe and for a lot less than in Nassau. Are we going to be offering "1 flies-1 flies free" deals and cruise ship tax rebates for the rest of the decade?
Many of us believe that the answer lies in the marriage of tourism and cultural and artistic expression. Yet the government of The Bahamas refuses or is unable to act in a manner that encourages wider cultural entrepreneurship - entrepreneurship that can maximize local and tourist markets. And to be fair, the private sector is even less interested in investing than the government.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, Junkanoo is a Christmas festival not a spring festival like Mardi Gras or Trinidad or Rio Carnival. The western world is just not going to travel heavily to be in another country on Christmas night or New Year's Day. So what does that leave here in the capital?
The Fry (Arawak Cay) is the best attraction in Nassau, outside of Atlantis' casino, restaurants, clubs and water attractions. It features local food, live music and atmosphere (at affordable prices, prices which no hotel can match).
How can we expand or duplicate what's best about the Fry? What would it cost to do so?
Let's look at the FNM's track record. They rejected Carifesta twice. They show contempt (like the PLP before them) for the run-down shell of a National Performing Arts Centre (which could be the year round home of the National Dance Company, Children's Choir, Youth Choir, Youth Orchestra, Police and Defence Force bands and a National Theatre Company).
They have made a ghost out of the Junkanoo Museum. They don't seem to know what to do with Shakespeare in Paradise. And they generally refuse to facilitate cultural workers in a sustained and comprehensive way in the tourist zones.
As a result, Nassau remains a dull, run-down, expensive place to visit. We absorb all sorts of tax breaks for resort development.
In this period why couldn't we have been bold and taken some risks in an effort to improve The Bahamas as a cultural destination? Hotels aren't destinations. Cities, towns and countries are, but we settle for a country where the only thing people come for is to walk around in Atlantis. And soon Baha Mar, I suppose.
But outside of the jobs these enclaves create, aren't we losing out on opportunities to truly maximize the tourist dollars spent on the island?
Ingraham also flirted with legalizing numbers and then backed off, promising a referendum if he is re-elected. This is leading from behind, which is not his style.
The Bahamian government is broke and the numbers business is a quarter to half a billion dollar enterprise that goes untaxed and unregulated.
The government has a right and a responsibility to tax the daylights out of this business, to bring it into the light of public scrutiny and to use the money it gains to help build the country and strengthen the social fabric.
Ingraham should have used this recession to regulate numbers.
Instead, a magistrate has confiscated nearly $1 million and fined businessman Craig Flowers $10,000.
By now Ingraham could have collected as much in taxes for numbers as he got in the BTC sale. He should also have taxed alcohol more heavily as well.
I said earlier that if you are going to risk being voted out over something unpopular, you better make sure that the change you're introducing is worth it all.
I'm sorry but Ingraham could have left the roads bumpy, focused exclusively on fixing the eastern district water problem, and tackled a real problem instead of going through all this madness with the roads all at once.
What he should have done, again under the cover of the economic crisis, is address our regressive and unethical system of taxation that burdens the poor and middle class and lets the rich and their companies get away with all their cash.
Ingraham should have been the man to introduce income tax. It's the perfect time to do so. The pressure from the U.S. is leading us in that direction anyway. Would he lose this election if he did so? He may lose it over unfinished roads.
What I guarantee you though, is that the PLP would not have repealed it afterward. The government needs revenue. We have thousands of people on pension in the civil service who have contributed nothing to it but feel entitled.
The bubble will burst eventually. NIB is already automatically removing a percentage of my salary before it hits my bank account.
I may never make a claim at NIB but I accept that my contribution helps those who need support more than I do. Income tax is doable.
And thereby we can reduce these ridiculous customs duties that hamper the growth of Bahamian businesses because you are being taxed before you sell anything. I reject the argument that the government can't handle income tax. It can and so can our people.
I could talk about the fact that after downsizing ZNS, it is still operating at the same quality level as before, or about the FNM's refusal to touch Bahamasair despite the fact there are homegrown airlines who can pick up the slack.
But instead I wish to raise the question of right sizing the civil service. I don't think this has to mean sending hundreds of people home and creating a social and economic crisis. I mean actually moving people from posts where they are under-performing or are really redundant and re-training them to help plug holes elsewhere in the system. I'll give just a few examples.
I once interviewed Loretta Butler-Turner, Minister of State for Social Development, and she told me that the nation could use another 150 social workers. As you might imagine the social worker does crucial work that is essential to public health, public safety, crime prevention and the overall wellbeing of the society. Why not re-deploy and re-train some of your civil servants to fill this need?
Our schools are overcrowded. Every classroom could use a teacher's aid. And what about the problem of truancy? Or the need for environmental health inspectors to check homes and businesses, particularly given the occurrences of dengue.
There were creative options available to the government that would allow it to shift the public service work force to meet the greatest needs. We need park wardens and after school mentors for our teenagers; we need these in every community.
The FNM just lacked a holistic, creative social vision and they failed to see how their economic choices and challenges could actually work for them not against them in the effort to build a stronger, better country.
They took the unemployed and had them cleaning the streets. And sure, that met a need, because New Providence is filthy. But in the same way, there were other serious needs that could have been met, not just with new hires but by properly utilizing the people you already have employed.
So overall, I'll describe Ingranomics as an orthodox approach, lacking in innovation or experimentation. Ingraham played it safe, which can be a comfort in these unstable times. But sometimes you can play it so safe that you get fired by the people anyway, because the times demand more daring. We'll see what happens.
Fort Charlotte has been closed indefinitely to parties, while the Antiquities Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC) determines how best to move forward with using the national monument as a revenue earner, Tribune Business can reveal.
This comes on the heels of a movement coordinated by a Bahamian Club Owners Association to have "outdoor parties" operating as weekly nightclubs shut down, and restaurants that operate dances without the necessary music and dance licenses to cease and desist.
Baha Mar "wowed" New York's top corporate, media and travel industry executives, rolling out the "blue carpet" at an innovative series of interactive "reverse upfront" events that provided an insider's preview of what executives have promised will be one of the most compelling and exciting destinations in North America.
Attendees comprised an A-list of top executives from travel consortia, major networks and publishing companies such as Viacom, Facebook, CNN, Microsoft and Universal, according to a release issued by Baha Mar yesterday.
"Baha Mar is connecting The Bahamas to the world with all the glamor and style of a bygone era. They are doing something that will change our hospitality industry and The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is proud to be an ally of Baha Mar," said Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who was also a guest at the event.
"We immersed potential New York sponsors, advertisers, editors and meeting and travel planners in vivid demonstrations of just how Baha Mar will revolutionize leisure and group travel opportunities. They were awed by our entire three million-square-foot campus on 1,000 acres featuring 2,200 hotel rooms and suites, 100,000 square feet of gaming, 200,000 square feet of combined, flexible, state-of-the-art convention and meeting space, more than 50,000 square feet of high-end retail and shopping, 18 holes of championship golf, over 30 restaurants, bars and lounges, and 20 acres of beach, pool and lakeside experiences including a 3,000-foot beachfront. The result? Baha Mar will dominate major business, promotional and editorial channels, supporting thousands of new jobs and a thriving economy," said Sarkis Izmirlian, Baha Mar chairman and chief executive officer.
"The inspiration was to take a page out of what the networks and cable companies do when they preview their next season's lineup for advertisers at their annual 'upfronts.' Here, we gathered together an impressive collection of potential partners to show them what we will offer and invite them to come back to us with surprising and creative opportunities for the future," said Denise Godreau, Baha Mar chief marketing officer.
Invited guests arrived at the events in Chelsea, entering a simulated airplane boarding gate. They traveled through a jet fuselage-styled passageway overlooking beautiful Bahamian waters and arrived a glamorous "terminal", where a 52-inch flat screen displayed stunning video imagery of Baha Mar, The Bahamian Riviera. Images of the four hotels, Mondrian, Rosewood, Grand Hyatt and The Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, as well as the Jack Nicklaus golf course, spa and pools told the story of what would await the guests at this new resort destination.
After this imaginative welcome, guests emerged into a contemporary salon gleaming in signature Baha Mar blue and white. Near the softly illuminated architectural model of the resort campus, the Baha Mar logo etched in white marble and highlighted with gold leaf was a striking beacon adjacent to distinctive food and drink with the flavor of The Bahamas, such as Rum Dums by visiting Bahamian mixologist Wilfred Sands.
Baha Mar presenters were the visionary Sarkis Izmirlian; President Tom Dunlap, responsible for making this $3.5 billion vision a reality, and Chief Marketing Officer Denise Godreau, who orchestrated the New York reverse upfront events with Las Vegas-based advertising firm SK+G and New York-based WCMG Events.
In addition, guests met Paul Pusateri, newly appointed chief operating officer and general manager of Baha Mar Casino & Hotel; Robert 'Sandy' Sands, Baha Mar senior vice president, administration and external affairs; Greg Saunders, general manager, Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar; Cate Farmer, general manager, Mondrian at Baha Mar; Luis Fernandes, managing director, Rosewood at Baha Mar; and Dianna Wong, Dianna Wong Architecture & Interior Design.
Serving as master of ceremonies for the morning editorial breakfast was Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS-TV and host of The Travel Detective, the new series airing on PBS.
The luncheon for 100 top travel and industry meeting planners showcased all of the resort's new amenities, but especially the state of-the-art convention facilities including an art gallery with the largest collection of Bahamian art in the country.
The glittering grand finale was the evening "reverse upfront" for sponsors and advertisers featuring David Verklin, the charismatic operating partner of Calera Capital, known for always being on the leading edge of media innovation, as the master of ceremonies.
"CMO Denise Godreau challenged partners to think outside the box, to innovate, to be bold, to be daring. It was a great challenge to lay out and one we at Viacom are very excited to take on," remarked Neils Shuurmans, chief marketing officer at the global mass media company.
The Elizabeth on Bay plaza will receive a boost this year with the addition of a trendy sushi lounge, Guardian Business can reveal, as the property seeks to raise its profile.
Sur, a sushi bar described as both a restaurant and an after-hours lounge, is expected to open its doors by the summer.
Charles Klonaris, a key owner and developer of Elizabeth on Bay, told Guardian Business the move should add a chic dimension to the property's offerings.
"There are plans being drawn up and experts will be coming down to look at it. It will be a beautiful place and we'll have two major restaurants on the waterfront, making the venue as a whole very attractive," he said.
Blu, the first restaurant in the complex, opened its doors in October of last year. It created dozens of jobs in the process, and according to Klonaris, sales have proven steady. The $14 million shopping plaza is also home to a variety of other boutique shops.
Sur, he added, adds a further dimension to the destination.
"It will be smaller in size than Blu, but upscale," Klonaris explained. "After late hours, they'll turn it into a lounge area where you can come after hours to check out the waterfront. A lot of thought has gone into the interior design and I think they'll be very careful on the ambiance."
The area is being leased to an American developer, he said. The total investment in the project is unknown at this time.
Although the developers expect great things for the Elizabeth on Bay shopping plaza, Klonaris told Guardian Business it is has been difficult "pioneering" East Bay Street. He felt it was an ongoing effort to convince tourists "to turn left" when they step off the cruise ships.
"We have more traffic coming down our way. We think down the road, the city is going to shift more to the east.
It will be the new Nassau, is what I would call it," he said. "We're still working with new ideas, fresh ideas and a better product mix for the consumer."
Admitting that too many of the buildings along East Bay are "dilapidated", he anticipated the rise of a boardwalk and movement of the container ports as a seminal moment in downtown's evolution. He pointed out the Kellys and Pritchards, large landowners in the area, "are moving quite fast to put together a master plan".
That would be welcomed news to Elizabeth on Bay as it continues its expansion with a sushi restaurant. More Japanese cuisine will also be a welcomed addition to Bahamian consumers. New Providence is currently home to just three notable sushi restaurants, including Nobu, Ichiban and Seafront Sushi.
"Everything we do today is for the long term," Klonaris said. "This is the first year the plaza has been there. You're going to have a trial period where you'll see growth. We're working on the product mix and changes will take place. When it comes all together ... it's hard to say.
BARBADOS - Claiming he has seen "declining enthusiasm" for the tax over the years in his own country, the governor of the Central Bank of Barbados has called value-added tax (VAT) an "anti-tourism" tax which has hurt its local industry and which he is lobbying to see removed there.
In an exclusive interview with Guardian Business on VAT and its effects, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr. Delisle Worrell, who has held the post since 2009, said that VAT is "horribly complicated" to administer and called Barbados's own VAT system "a mess". Worrell said that in his view a "simple sales tax" would be a far preferable means of revenue generation for the Barbadian government.
Admitting that his position on the tax is considered "very radical" among his colleagues and does not necessarily represent that of the bank as an institution, Worrell said that he has been opposed to the tax in Barbados since its inception.
The government of Barbados introduced VAT at a rate of 15 percent in 2010; it was later increased to 17.5 percent in 2010 for what the government at the time said would be a period of 18 months and has remained at that level since.
The economist, who has recently concluded a study on VAT for the Central Bank, said: "I take a very radical stance on VAT. I think VAT is an inappropriate tax for a tourism-based economy. The rationale for VAT is that it is an export promoting tax, because if you are exporting physical goods (VAT is not charged on) those goods, but the producers are able to claim refunds/rebates on their inputs.
"They are 'vattable' goods but because their sales are external you're not going to charge VAT on the exports, only on the domestic sales. So if they are a sugar producer they will pay VAT on local sales but anything they export they won't pay any vat on, but they will claim a rebate on all of their inputs. So there's a bias in the VAT in favor of export industries; that is if you are exporting physical things that are consumed outside, but not if you are exporting tourism, because the tourists come to you to consume.
"So VAT is an anti-tourism tax if you are a tourism producer because it makes your tourism more expensive than the people who don't charge VAT, and that's why all tourism countries who apply VAT have to apply it at a lower rate. A simple sales tax would be much better."
Barbados applied a 7.5 percent rate of VAT to its tourism sector when it implemented VAT in 1997. This was later increased to 8.75 percent when the general rate rose to 17.5 percent, but as is proposed in The Bahamas, the lower rate was only applied to room-related transactions, and other tourism services such as restaurants on the hotel property, tours, activities, car and boat rentals, for example, remained subject to the full rate of VAT.
Worrell suggested that a sales tax, something a number of Bahamian business owners and operators, most prominently Rupert Roberts, President of Super Value, have proposed, "a more efficient way to raise the same level of revenue" for the government of Barbados, or The Bahamas.
Confirming the fears expressed by a number of Bahamians regarding the administration of VAT, Worrell said it "puts a tremendous burden on government administrations" and businesses.
"It's a very complicated tax, especially if you are selling services - what are your inputs? If I am making a cell phone I know I need silicon, I know I need different materials and so on so I can inventory the materials I've brought in and say for each cell phone I need X amount of these materials, it's clear. But if I am an engineer and I am supplying engineering services, what are my inputs? And so it becomes horribly complicated," he told Guardian Business.
With reference to the refunding of excess VAT paid to the government, the Governor confirmed that the government has not managed to pay these sums back to businesses in a timely fashion, despite interest being owed by the government to the business if it takes more than six months to pay the refund after it is owed.
"They are in arrears on refunds and they are also a known quantity of refund claims that are outstanding, and there are cases where the companies have claimed the refund and the VAT office has not necessarily accepted those," he added.
On the plus side, Worrell said that VAT has been successful at raising revenue for the government. In a recent study, titled "A Review of the VAT system in Barbados" Worrell and his three co-authors at the Central Bank said there was "some gain" in revenue yield relative to the tax rate with the establishment of VAT in Barbados, but the administrative costs of collecting the VAT were higher relative to the revenue received than for the taxes they replaced.
Finding that VAT has been "less elastic and less buoyant" in response to changes in income than its predecessor taxes, the authors said that this indicated the need for "greater compliance" with the tax in Barbados, noting that the VAT division of the government could benefit from employing additional staff.
Asked yesterday if the Central Bank of Barbados is therefore recommending that the government of Barbados do away with VAT as a source of revenue, Worrell said: "Not the Central Bank - me." He added that the government is not officially considering removing VAT.
The construction of Mahogany Hill, a high-end boutique hotel set for western New Providence, is nearly 25 percent complete and is "on schedule", with around 100 people expected to be employed at the site by early 2014.
Since breaking ground on the $30 million development in August, its Project Manager Lauren Holowesko said work on Mahogany Hill is "progressing quite well".
"We have all of the plumbing in. So at the beginning of the year, we will probably be capping off the second floor of the guest room buildings and will be progressing quite nicely with the main hotel structure. We have the lower ground floor foundations and walls completed and we're looking to start on the lobby level probably in February of next year," Holowesko said.
"We're still looking at a final handover from the construction company at the beginning of December. So at the moment, we're on the second floor of the east and west guest rooms. And those are progressing quite well.
"We have between 80-100 people on-site at the moment and that will progress into the new year and the coming months as we need more craftsman and plumbers.
"We're at about 78 now and that will increase to about 100 in early 2014 as we begin to do more finish work."
To date, approximately $6 million has been poured into the project.
Holowesko said most of the site will be finalized by August 2014 and the interior finishes should "hopefully" be completed by December.
"We're ordering all of the plumbing fixtures and floor finishes," she said to Guardian Business.
The 33-room boutique hotel will include a spa, pool, a small theater and a restaurant, and is an expansion of the popular Mahogany House restaurant, located in Lyford Cay.
Once the hotel is open, a 40-plus staff complement will be hired.
Holowesko sees Mahogany Hill as a great investment, bringing a great sense of community for all of the nearby developments.
"I think it's going to be a great platform. We see the surrounding communities having access to this place, whether it's going out to buy a movie ticket or coming to the Movement Studio, which will have classes that you can sign up for online. We see it as a great local center where if you wanted to have a quick coffee and a meeting, it's the perfect place to go," she said.
"We're really excited for the ambiance that it will create for this area because it's growing so quickly and generating a buzz. I think it will create a great sense of community for all of the developments in the area."
Both Prime Minister Perry Christie and Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who were on hand for the brief groundbreaking ceremony, applauded Holowesko's efforts not only for being one of few Bahamians that have invested heavily in the country's hotel industry in recent years, but the fact that it has provided new tourism offering for guests visiting Bahamian shores.
"Much like his restaurant, the hotel will be a fine example to other Bahamians of what can happen when you invest in your country. You can provide much-needed jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for fellow Bahamians," Christie said.
"It adds to the diversity of the tourism product. The truth is, this is going to be very significant not only because of its size but where it is located and the fact that it is a part of the environment," Wilchcombe echoed.
"It's a unique concept that I believe will catch on. I think the property is going to be significant to the growth and development of the tourism industry. Plus, it adds rooms because we do have a problem with inventory. To be able to offer this inventory, a high-end boutique hotel, is very significant."
A mixture of optimism and an expectation of challenging and uncertain circumstances to come characterize the views of a number of leading figures in Guardian Business' round up of opinions on what 2014 has to hold for The Bahamas in terms of growth, unemployment levels, government policy initiatives and the outlook for a variety of key sectors.
Here James Smith, former central bank governor and chairman of Colina Financial Advisors Limited (CFAL); George Markantonis, president and managing director of Atlantis Resort; Anthony Ferguson, president of CFAL; Aliya Allen, chief executive officer and executive director of the Bahamas Financial Services Board; Franon Wilson, president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association; and a top banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, offer their views on what The Bahamas can expect in 2014.
James Smith said he expects The Bahamas to experience "some modest economic growth in 2014, but at an insufficiently high level to produce any dramatic change in the unemployment rate".
"The Bahamas is still emerging slowly from the deep recession which began in 2008 and was marked by negative GDP growth rates for most of the period, accompanied by high unemployment rates; more than doubling from 7.5 percent at the end of 2007 to a little over 16 percent currently," he said.
"Given the unflattering macroeconomic statistics of 2013, any positive trends for 2014 are likely to be at best 'modest' since we would be projecting from an already low base."
"Our major economic sector, tourism, is likely to continue to face headwinds in 2014 because our major market, the USA, projected GDP growth and lower unemployment levels are unlikely to be sufficient to dramatically alter the fall-off in tourist expenditure, total room revenue and average occupancy rates experienced in The Bahamas over the last three quarters of 2013," Smith said. "There is likely to be an improvement in employment levels in the tourist sector as a result of accelerated job additions to meet the December 2014 deadline of the Baha Mar project."
On the financial sector
"The second largest economic sector, financial services, continues to operate under the stressful conditions induced by international regulators' demands for increased capitalization, which in turn has led to some downsizing in the local market in order to preserve profit levels or to avoid stringent regulatory oversight," he said.
"The continued losses of high-end jobs in the financial services sector would compress overall demand for goods and services locally and present a challenge to economic growth throughout 2014."
"Our third largest sector, construction, which accounts for about 10 percent of GDP but also has the highest proportion of value-added contribution to GDP, is expected to continue to perform poorly as a result of the fall-off in demand for new construction and the restraint on new mortgage loans in the banking sector, which continues to be plagued with abnormally high loan arrears portfolios of over $1.2 billion at the end of the third quarter in 2013," he said.
"The moderation in consumer prices as a result of declining oil prices is likely to be tempered somewhat with the planned introduction of a new consumer-based tax during the second quarter of 2014.
On foreign direct investment
"Plans in the pipeline for some major and minor FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) projects in the tourism sector could have a positive impact on economic growth and employment levels if they materialize over the next several months," Smith said.
"However, there is likely to be a continued drag on the economy; one that cannot be adequately addressed by increased government spending at a time when a growing public sector debt issue is being closely monitored by both local and international lenders."
George Markantonis, president and managing director of the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, the country's largest private sector employer, said he is very optimistic about 2014 based on the pace of bookings the resort is seeing for the new year.
"Only February seems somewhat weak in the first four months and we are taking steps to try and correct that," he said. "We believe that the improving American economy, the stable U.S. housing market and the climbing Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) are all creating more consumer confidence in the U.S. which realistically provides us with 85 percent of our annual business.
"A bright spot on the horizon is our group booking pace continuing to grow, while a dark spot is the declining airlift coming into the country. December numbers released (last week) show year-on-year decline in seats of eight percent, mostly due to reduced December service of American from Dallas and Jet blue from Ft. Lauderdale."
New trends in tourism that The Bahamian tourism sector will need to consider in 2014:
"New gaming licenses are being approved across the United States which will continue to add competition for our casinos," he said. "In addition cruise lines are continuing to add non-traditional attractions to their new mega-ships thereby directly competing with land-based mega-resorts, that is water slides, celebrity chef restaurants etc, etc."
Major policy steps the government could take to impact the tourism sector in 2014:
"We are very pleased that government is reviewing the gaming regulations of course but hope that there will be some significant steps taken to reduce utility costs across the sector, and to minimize the addition of more fees to business which will have to be passed on to the consumer and may impact the value perception of the destination," he said.
Anthony Ferguson said he expects a "challenging" 2014.
"I think 2014 will be a challenging one for The Bahamas as the U.S. slows in the first half coupled with the implementation of value-added tax (VAT) which would cause businesses to delay any hiring and expansion decisions," he said. "This will be countered by Baha Mar as they look to hire and train for the December opening. However 5,000 kids graduating from school in 2014 will negate Baha Mar hiring."
On unemployment levels
"I don't think we can really reduce unemployment in 2014 as the Baha Mar hiring will be offset by the 5,000 school graduates," Ferguson said. "To rescue employment the government needs to balance new taxes against incentives for businesses to consider expanding their business."
On policy initiatives which could stimulate the private sector:
"The government should reduce the red tape, allow economic passports, revisit immigration policy," he said.
"It's mind blowing that the Department of Labour are directing businesses who to interview and hire. It's also socialist. And if they sent qualified people you be grateful!
"The government needs to reshuffle the Cabinet and implement an economic planning ministry to develop a 20 year strategy for Bahamas Inc. Unless we do this we are headed in the direction of the rest of the Caribbean."
Aliya Allen, CEO and executive director of the BFSB, said she is upbeat about the potential for 2014 to generate more opportunity and greater returns for the financial services sector.
"Generally, we see a number of bright spots for financial services, as a result of the initiatives we have undertaken in recent and past years," she said.
"These include ongoing developments in the captive insurance and funds sectors, as well as continuing to solidify our position as a leader in wealth management."
Major trends or changes that The Bahamas will have to adapt to in 2014:
"The cost of compliance will continue to be a challenge, with initiatives like FATCA, for example. Indeed, I would add to that the cost of compliance with VAT, even for firms that benefit from zero rating but wish to reclaim inputs," she said.
Significant policy steps the government could take to positively impact the financial sector:
"The government has demonstrated a historic commitment to the financial community," Allen said.
"If this commitment could be expanded to include additional resources we could truly be first in class in business, both local and international. That extends to setting and monitoring turn around times in all effective business processes and departments such as the Department of Immigration, the Registrar Generals Department, and the Bahamas Investment Authority."
Franon Wilson, president of Arawak Homes and the Bahamas Real Estate Association, said he too is optimistic about what the new year holds for the economy.
"I am optimistic in large part because of Baha Mar, and in that regard even though the hotel will not open during the course of this year they'll probably be hiring a lot of people and that will be a big jolt in our economy," he said.
"I do think the levels will come down. I don't think it's going to happen overnight and go back to 2005 or 2006 levels, but I do think now it is moving slowly in that direction and that will give a boost. We won't be in the clear but we'll be moving in the right direction."
On policy initiatives that could stimulate the private sector:
"At the end of the day certainty is key and I accept the country's financial position is in a state where we need some type of reform to help the government to move forward and maintain the standard we have right now, whether it's VAT or a blend of VAT and something else; whatever it is, I'm looking forward to getting that process done so we can move forward. We need to deal with it and move forward."
A leading banker, who offered his views on condition of anonymity, told Guardian Business he fears The Bahamas will "let a good crisis go to waste" in 2014.
"Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff for [U.S. President Barack] Obama said something along the lines of 'You never let a serious crisis go to waste,'" he said.
"I find that quote a very appropriate place to start as I reflect on where The Bahamas finds itself financially today.
"The Bahamas economy has suffered a body blow since the financial crisis erupted in the developed world in 2007. While the U.S. seems to be emerging from this crisis, albeit painfully slowly, we have yet to see the Bahamian economy back to pre-crisis levels. Unemployment in The Bahamas remains stubbornly high and loan delinquencies have soared. With the economy in the doldrums, government revenue has plummeted but the expense base has not changed materially. The net effect of this development has been that the budget deficit has widened and the debt to GDP ratio is in the danger zone. The government is taking steps to address the problem of the lack of revenue, through the proposed introduction of VAT. Based on public pronouncements of the business community, the government's proposal has gone down like a lead balloon with loud voices suggesting dire events if VAT is introduced."
The economic outlook in the short and medium term:
"The short-term (one to two years) does not look particularly good," he said.
"The introduction of VAT in 2014 will likely tip the struggling Bahamian consumer over the edge and exacerbate their already difficult existence. Delinquencies are likely to worsen as living standards erode. Discretionary spending funds will reduce and related consumption will decline hurting the already struggling Bahamian private sector. The Bahamian consumer accounts for a considerable percentage of the Bahamian GDP and lower consumption will hurt Bahamian economic recovery and tax revenues. The devil is in the details and the public cannot see the execution of VAT meeting the GOB revenue expectations simply because Bahamians do not have a culture for paying taxes as is evident with the $500MM in delinquent property taxes. The informal sector and cash basis society will blossom and leach the tax revenue GOB is relying on.
"The medium term (three to five years) perspective is more positive as global economies in general, and the U.S. in particular, are showing greater robustness in their economic recovery, which should hopefully translate to more tourism traffic for The Bahamas. The U.S. is particularly important to The Bahamas as more than 90 percent of our tourist traffic and related revenues come from there and signs that U.S. consumers are more willing to spend and charge up their credit cards auger well for the Bahamian economy. Coupled with the opening of Baha Mar in late 2014, I see a resurgence in the domestic economy and employment levels in 2016."
Fiscal reform in 2014 - stuck between 'a rock and a hard place'
"It appears that the government knows all the VAT related pitfalls but it finds itself between a rock and a hard place," he said.
"It needs to plug the fiscal deficit and control the growing debt to GDP ratio. The introduction of measures to reduce the deficit cannot fail as the alternatives are much worse. Barbados has already announced a reduction in civil servant levels by 3,000 to avoid going to the IMF for a bail out and Jamaica has defaulted twice. Both face many years of painful adjustments that cannot be good for their people.
"The mandarins from the IMF have persuaded it that the same medicine of VAT that has been applied with modest success elsewhere would work here, notwithstanding the tax avoidance and downright tax evasion culture that is pervasive in The Bahamas. VAT is simply a revenue generating tool that government is presently promoting - there may be other options that may be more targeted and have a greater chance of success with lower leakages and collection costs. The government is hopefully exploring all options including a phased introduction of VAT with lower starting rates. But any form of taxation will have the same impact on lowering consumer spending.
"But reducing the deficit requires not only an increase in revenue but also a reduction in expenses - from the bloated civil service to the inefficient government corporations. No administration historically has wanted to touch these sacred cows and regrettably, the time has now come where the country cannot simply ignore the vast government bureaucracy and the amounts that are used to subsidize the corporations.
"Instead of taking the opportunity to reset the public's expectations, the government is maintaining that everything will be fine soon and unemployment is dropping and economic recovery is in sight. No serious effort is being made to sit costs or wastage. We are, yet again, letting a serious crisis go to waste."
Forget the meat, forget the fillings, forget the condiments -- and always remember, it's all about the bread. That is the premise
on which the owners of Island Subs -n- Soups founded one of the island's newest eateries on.
Brothers, Chef Martin Elliott and Bruce Elliott realized that their idea of a subs and soup shop wasn't entirely original,
so to make their restaurant different from their competitors, the brothers decided that they would offer up their sandwiches
on homemade raisin, coconut, wheat and white breads the way gramma used to make them
Chef Elliott himself trained his staff in his own dough recipes. At 9 a.m when his staff enters the Trinity Plaza, West Bay
Street location, the first thing to be done is dough is mixed and kneaded and placed into the proofer. By 11 a.m. when the
door is opened to the first customer, they're getting fresh bread, hot out of the oven.
"The concept of Island Subs -n- Soups is very familiar to Bahamians, but what sets us apart from our competitors is our bread,
which is homemade Bahamian bread. We have real coconut bread that Bahamians would know, raisin bread, whole wheat and white,
but our breads are a little sweeter the way Bahamians like it -- like gramma used to make it ... you know when it comes out of
the oven and you can spread a little butter on it and go to town.
That's what separates us from them."
"I've trained the employees in how to make the dough. They know how I want it. Recipes are straightforward, so they measure
and do exactly what a recipe says, and it's consistent each time.
We grate coconut for the coconut bread, soak the coconut
to make coconut milk and the water is then used in the dough, and the grated fruit is put into the dough. For the whole wheat
bread we use 100 percent whole wheat grain flour and you're getting what we say we're giving you. For the raisin bread, we
use fresh raisins, cinnamon and put it together. At 9 a.m. when the door to the store is cracked open, the dough person starts
on the dough, when you come in at 11 a.m., you're getting the freshest baked Bahamian bread ever."
Chef Elliott says it takes 15 minutes to make the dough, half-hour to proof the dough, and 10 minutes in the oven for the
oblong-shaped sub rolls to be ready for consumption, that is after a cooling process of course.
"When we start serving at 11 a.m., you're getting fresh bread. Our dough is not frozen, it's made fresh every day, and I'm
proud of to say I consider our breads to be our signature item. They also offer wraps -- plain white and wheat, which they
do not make.
Chef Martin Elliott, formerly of the BBQ King fame, says the subs and soups eatery was something he conceived in his mind
about 10 years ago, but as the years went by, things began to change, the idea went on to the backburner and of course he
got sidetracked by his BBQ King store. Last year he pulled the subs and soups idea off that backburner and decided to do
it. It took him
about six months to renovate his space and get it up to standard. Three weeks ago he opened his doors to his first customers.
Coming up with his menu was easy, but to ratchet up his uniqueness, he took his subs idea a step further than just homemade
bread, by adding a few unique filling ideas to tempt the Bahamian palate. Customers can order a grilled grouper sub, lobster
salad sub, shrimp salad sub, and a grilled conch sub is in the makings, along with the standard fixings like roast beef, ham,
salami, turkey and tuna.
"You look at what your competitors are doing, but then you tweak it, and that's why we decided to carry shrimp salad, lobster
salad, grilled grouper and smoked salmon, because most Bahamians like seafood. But the bread is the secret, because none
of us -- neither my competitor nor myself make the turkey, none of us make the roast beef, none of us make the tuna, but what
will differentiate our sandwich from their sandwich is the bread. The bread determines how good the sandwich is, and we're
not using frozen dough, and you ain't gone tell me you ain't gone give a Bahamian a sandwich on homemade bread and they ain't
gonna lick their lips and come back for more." And anything you can get on a sub, you can have made into a salad.
While Chef Elliott stands by his bread, he says the soups are definitely a must have when you visit. Four soups are available
on a daily basis -- Bahamian classics like peas soup and dumplings, okra soup and split peas, and a grouper chowder the chef
says is another signature item that is a must have item.
He also paid special attention to his dessert offerings with three flavors of duffs -- guava, coconut and pineapple -- simply
because he wanted to satisfy everyone's sweet tooth, have more variety and be different from his competitors who just serve
the guava version of this Bahamian treat. Chef Elliott himself makes the duffs.
With slices of chocolate cake, cheesecake
and carrot cake visible, along with macadamia nut cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies, and a fresh fruit salad, and eight flavors
of ice cream, he says you're bound to find the sweet you want to end your meal.
With one store opened, Chef Elliott says he and his brother have long-term visions of a number of Island Subs and Soups restaurants
around New Providence and the Family Islands and maybe even in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Islands Subs and Soups are open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday and Sundays 2 p.m to 7 p.m.
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 ALISON LOWE
The Opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has hit out at the "damaging revisions" to the National Investment Policy, and promised to reverse the changes announced by the Prime Minister that will allow more foreign competition in the restaurant and entertainment sector.
The party said it "questions the logic" of the changes to the policy as it relates to restaurants and entertainment facilities, "especially in this time when the economy has been damaged by mismanagement, and Bahamians continue to lose jobs in all areas".
It said the change, which will allow foreigners to set up restaurant and entertainmen ...
Nassau, Bahamas - May21st was the annual Hands for Hunger event, Paradise Plates on
Paradise Island. Various restaurants, caterers and vendors all came out
in support donating their time, resources and creative efforts to the
annual charity event. While I was officially there in a work capacity,
I was also there as an avid Culinarian. The event was any food lover's
dream. You get to walk around a room all night full of delicious and
creative bites, sample wines and beer, be entertained by amazing bands,
schmooze with friends and all for a good cause. It was a who's who of
the culinary elite.
Aqua and Mesa were both represented for the Atlantis and One and Only
hotel chain. Mesa offered the bold flavors of a Bahamian jerk chicken
skewer, while Aqua offered up a delicious and fresh grouper plate.
Aqua's presentation was bright and beautiful with a stunningly
nonchalant grouper as their table centerpiece...
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.
It's Authentic! It's Bahamian Art & Culture! It's The Bahamian Art & Culture Tour!
Office Family Restaurant and Lounge in conjunction with the Grand
Bahama Artists Association will launch The Bahamian Art & Culture
Tour Experience this Sunday May 19th, 2013 at 6:00 pm in the evening at
The Office in the RND Plaza.
Locals and visitors to the shores of
Grand Bahama can explore the world of art, wine and Bahamian Foods
during the week-days and every Sunday between...
By PAUL G TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
OFFICERS from the Commercial Crimes Unit are investigating the latest Nigerian internet scam that offers jobs to Bahamians as "survey assistants" through the social media website Facebook.
Offering itself as a "chance to get paid for shopping and dining out," the job requires that a person visit a variety of stores, restaurants, and services throughout the Bahamas and receive payment for their time and effort.
Applicants were asked to fill out a simple application (devoid of any fees) which highlighted that no previous experience or qualifications was required.
A portion of the application reads as follows:
Just nine months away from its planned December 8 opening, the Baha Mar resort is on target with "75 percent to 80 percent" of the construction work complete and a ramp up of marketing planned for the third quarter of this year.
The government has hinged part of its hopes for an economic recovery, and a dip in unemployment, on the resort's opening.
Robert Sands, the resort's senior vice president of administration and external affairs, said while Baha Mar is not the only economic driver in town, he is sure the property will be able to live up to these expectations by pulling in arrivals and putting thousands of Bahamians to work.
"There is an expectation for Baha Mar in this particular area," he told Guardian Business. "We are satisfied that we are going to do our part.
"We're not the only economic driver in the country, but we are satisfied that the jobs that we are going to create will make a significant dent in the unemployment in this country, and we will also be a major stimulus to economic growth in the country going forward."
Sands said the property has more than 10,000 applications for operational jobs. Baha Mar's recruitment team has started reviewing these applications to forward to the property's brands for consideration.
To date, the property has created more than 2,800 job opportunities for Bahamians and put out more than $615 million worth of contracts out to bid for Bahamian contractors.
There are more than 350 Bahamians currently working on the construction site, including construction workers. The resort's core team consists of 150 Bahamians.
There are nearly 3,000 foreign workers on the site and the bulk of this figure is made up of Chinese laborers.
"We have more than lived up to our commitment outlined in our heads of agreement with the government of The Bahamas," Sands said.
The Leadership Development Institute, one of the resort's recruitment programs, has had more than 3,500 participants and received more than 2,900 applications to date.
The resort plans to hire 4,000 hotel workers this year. Sands said he is confident that the property will be able to fill this void with Bahamian talent.
"The challenge will always remain in the middle to upper management categories, but we are satisfied that we will have the training in place that will be able to match the skill sets of the individuals we retain to the goals, the policies and also to the expectations that we have in the jobs that we will be matching them with."
Once open, Baha Mar will have to contend with competition from the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. Principals from the Albany development last month signed an amended heads of agreement with the government for a $140 million expansion, which is expected to transform the property into the Monaco of the Caribbean.
Sands said Baha Mar will be able to coexist with these properties and will offer something unique to visitors, particularly its casino.
He added that the resort's gaming partner, Global Gaming Access Management, is "world class" and responsible for some of the world's most successful casinos.
"We are satisfied that we are an adult destination and that we are in fact a gaming resort," Sands said, when asked about fears of competition. "Our niche is pretty much focused, we welcome Albany in their effort to help to raise the profile of tourism in The Bahamas, but we are very satisfied that the direction that we are going [in], we will be very successful in those market niches.
"In addition to gaming, we are going to have some emphasis on meetings and conventions and our luxury market as well. So we are very satisfied that Baha Mar will be able to generate the numbers of business, bodies that will be required to make us a very successful gaming resort on day one."
A key focus of the property is incorporating Bahamian culture and art into its concept.
"The whole ethos about Baha Mar is about things Bahamian," said Sands. "Our visionary leader says it all the time, we're not called the golden horse rising from the sea. We're called Baha Mar, which means beautiful blue waters. So even from our name, everything that we do characterizes authenticity and things Bahamian."
The resort has hired Bahamian artist John Cox as its creative arts director and aims to put local art at the forefront of its design. Baha Mar's local art alliances include The D'Aguilar Art Foundation, The Dawn Davies Collection and the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.
The resort's amenities will include a 100,000-square-foot casino, an 18-hole, 72-par Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, the ESPA at Baha Mar spa and more than a dozen pools.
Other attractions will include 50,000 square feet of high-end retail and shopping, and over 30 restaurants, bars and lounges.
The resort will also include 200,000 square feet of combined state-of-the-art convention facilities, including a 2,000-seat performing arts center and an art gallery with the largest curated collection of Bahamian art; a beachfront sanctuary with native Bahamian flora and fauna, and a private island.
Baha Mar officials are expected to take the media on a tour of its golf course today, which is set for completion by the second quarter of this year.
Nassau and Paradise Island, The Bahamas -
Prepare to be awed by Nassau Paradise Island. One of the most popular
ports of call for cruise ships and home to the #1 family resort in the
Caribbean region, Nassau Paradise Island is the island with something
for everyone. You will find the perfect mix of water sports, historical
tours, shopping, golf, casino gaming, restaurants and nightlife.
this video you will hear from Brooks & Ryan Russell of High Seas
Excursion; Clee J Vigal of Stuart's Cove; Eldina Miller of Exclusive
Bahamian Crafts; Donovan Ingraham...
"The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance, which envelop our future."- John Maynard Keynes
In part one of the "Nation for Sale" series, we questioned whether The Bahamas has become a nation for sale to the highest or best positioned foreign bidders. In part two, we considered the legacies of our prime ministers, past and present, to determine whether by their policies regarding foreign investors, we have been and continue to be a nation for sale. This week, we would like to Consider This... do we need to urgently adopt a modern, progressive investment policy for the 21st century if we are going to finally realize the dream of empowering Bahamians in a more meaningful way?
The anchor project template
In his first term as prime minister, Perry Christie accentuated the benefits of his government's anchor project policy. The plan was to have a substantial investment, anchored on each major island of The Bahamas with the tripartite objective of (1) expanding the economic activity on that island, (2) encouraging residents to stay there instead of migrating to islands where greater employment opportunities existed and (3) encouraging persons who had left their island to return because of the jobs and other economic prospects that would be created by such anchor projects.
The government felt that anchor projects could be achieved by offering foreign investors large tracts of Crown land for which, in some cases, the government would receive an equity position in the project. The thinking was that the government would provide the land for the investment, and the foreign investor would offer shares to the government. The application of this policy would conceptually present a mutually beneficial result, and, in the fullness of time, there would be cumulative benefits to our citizens. Few would challenge the rationale of such a policy, but there were some unanswered questions.
A more progressive variant of this approach would entail a government policy that ensures that the residents of the island on which the anchor project is situated receive concessions for the ancillary Bahamian-owned enterprises that will inevitably flow from such anchor projects. Hence, local entrepreneurs would know that the government policy would ensure that the businesses related to the primary investment, including transportation, watersports, artists and artisans, restaurants, night clubs, laundry facilities and other related services that would spin off from the primary investment, would be available only to them. It is not enough for a government to focus only on the primary anchor investor; it is equally important to engage urban planners, architects, environmentalists and others to ensure that a holistic approach to development is undertaken from start to finish.
Another enticement to foreign investors is the granting of concessions by the government, usually in the form of financial benefits, including, for example, a tax holiday for a certain period of time. Perhaps the "mother of all concessions" was that granted to the Grand Bahama Port Authority, which to this day is the beneficiary of enormous tax and other advantages. Similarly, the hundreds of millions of dollars granted to Kerzner International were as breathtaking as they were mind-boggling for a company that landed on our shores only with the promise of raising the sunken city of Atlantis from the ashes of a dated, lackluster and tired property that had changed ownership several times in a single decade.
The granting of concessions is a practical tool used by governments the world over as an inducement to foreign investment. However, the larger consideration is whether the country is really getting value for the concessions that it bestows on foreign investors and, if so, to what extent? The answer to the question is that we really don't know.
The reality of this approach is that the foreign investor wins coming and going. They benefit by having considerable taxes waived, often for lengthy periods of time, with the justification that they create jobs, which is a noble objective. But they also win by not being required to pay any taxes when they repatriate the profits that they earn in The Bahamas.
If we are going to be more discerning in our approach to foreign direct investment, we need to be able to better quantify the benefits that accrue to the country before we offer and grant concessions to such investors. The simplistic and politically expedient approach to obtaining jobs in return for concessions is no longer enough. While this template might have worked in the past, this model fosters a country of servile workers who own little or nothing, who are not empowered through ownership and whose only benefit is a salary at the end of the week or month. In addition, it is long overdue to seriously consider imposing a withholding tax on repatriated profits that are earned here. Otherwise, the investor benefits both ways, at our expense.
Just as we openly welcome foreign investors here, we should consider what kind of concessions would enhance our own citizens' chances for success, and we should grant them to those Bahamian enterprises that satisfy certain threshold parameters.
The long-term development needs of our country
It becomes increasingly obvious and immediately important that we need to have a long-term plan for our country. It is imprudent for successive governments to approach governance of a small country such as ours without more clearly defined and generally agreed upon approaches to national goals and objectives, such as what we want The Bahamas to be and a time frame for achieving those objectives. It is virtually impossible to grow our country in the short term without a clearly defined long-term horizon as to the nature of investments that will benefit our country.
Every Bahamian is an investor
We often hear about the plethora of consultants who are constantly hired by the government, often where there are qualified Bahamians to perform contracted assignments. We need a renewed commitment to Bahamianization regarding consultants engaged by the government. Bahamians are alienated and disconnected from their government for several legitimate reasons, one of which is the absence of a deliberate determination to ensure that, wherever possible, Bahamians are provided the first opportunity to participate in the engagements that successive governments hasten to distribute to foreign consultants - another symptom of a nation for sale.
Furthermore, if the government is thinking about privatizing our national assets, Bahamians should be afforded the first opportunity to invest in such privatization exercises, and be seriously considered for the opportunities that we love to bestow on foreigners - yet another clear example of selling our patrimony.
Therefore, when foreign investors come knocking at our doors, an enlightened and progressive government would advise that such investors are expected to either (1) find Bahamian business partners with whom to invest or (2) offer shares in their enterprises to the Bahamian public, or even better, both of the above. Other countries do it. Why shouldn't we?
The time has come for our political leaders to understand that they will be judged not only by the jobs that they create, but now also by the Bahamian owners in our economy who they facilitate. Bahamians are tired of successive governments giving away our land and economic opportunities to foreigners, at our expense. If we do not radically alter our thinking about ownership and greater participation in our economy, we will be thrown back into a new form of slavery, once again being nothing more than servile workers whose patrimony has been pillaged and whose bodies and minds have been enslaved.
Properly formulated and adeptly executed, Christie's legacy could entail an administration whose primary objective is one of Bahamian economic empowerment. It is now time for a reversal of a policy, which for too long has had at its core a subliminal message that we are a nation for sale. It is now time for the establishment of an economic culture that is inclusive and beneficial to all who call The Bahamas home and who wish to build our nation for generations yet unborn.
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
With an announcement on Baha Mar's casino partner soon to come, executives assert moves to make official its partnership with three respected hotel brands has already improved the country's cachet in the industry.
The $3.4 billion Cable Beach mega resort recently inked agreements with Hyatt Hotels, Morgans Hotel Group and the Rosewood Hotels management companies to operate the various hotels that will be constructed on the property.
They are deals, said vice president of administration and external affairs Robert Sands, that bode well for the country's image as a top tourism destination.
"It gives The Bahamas depth and an advantage in terms of best in class brands," he told Guardian Business yesterday. "Also, it further exposes The Bahamas as an enviable tourism destination."
Indeed, partnering with such brands may be the kind of boost this nation needs to maintain its tourism edge in the region, where competition has increased in recent years. As a global recession slashed disposable visitor spend, tourists have become discerning about value for their dollar, with hotel brands weighing heavily into travelers' decisions.
Having those kinds of well-known brands is especially important in a market like Nassau/Paradise Island where questions remain about market oversaturation in the mega resort category.
Various hotel executives, however, have assured that the market will be able to accommodate the addition of new rooms. Valued at $3.4 billion, Baha Mar will include almost 3,500 rooms and residences, the largest casino in the Caribbean, the largest convention center in The Bahamas, a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, three spas, a 20-acre eco-water park, multiple restaurants, high-end retail and entertainment venues, and will be situated along a half-mile of uninterrupted pristine beachfront. Baha Mar represents the largest single-phase resort ever developed in the Caribbean, and is currently the largest project under development in North America.
"Our hotel partners have embraced the vision of Baha Mar, which is to capture the true spirit of the region's rich heritage of African, European and Caribbean influences while delivering the very highest levels of quality and service," Sarkis Izmirlian, Baha Mar's chairman and CEO said recently in a press statement. "Shifting the sands of global tourism Baha Mar represents a bold vision, the largest in the history of the Caribbean, and marks the resurgence of an area known as The Bahamian Riviera. The successful completion of our management agreements with Hyatt, Morgans and Rosewood is a significant milestone for Baha Mar as we continue to turn this vision into a reality.
"All three of these hotel groups have been great partners with us throughout this process, and their ability to work together to bring Baha Mar's vision to reality has been amazing," said Don Robinson, president of Baha Mar. "Our strategy to work with multiple, best-in-class brands gives Baha Mar the opportunity to feature the very finest brand offerings for each of our different high-end hotel segments."
Hyatt Hotels Corporation is a global hospitality company with a portfolio of 445 properties on five continents, operating under the Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Andaz, Hyatt Place, and Hyatt Summerfield Suites brands names.
Morgans Hotel Group has a history of revolutionizing the hospitality industry with innovative lodging concepts characterized by design-centric ambiance and timeless elegance. It is well known for its Delano and Shore Club resorts in Miami, the Mondrian in Los Angeles, Miami and New York, the St. Martin's Lane and Sanderson properties in London, and the Morgans, Hudson and Royalton hotels in New York City.
Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has a long and successful history of managing exclusive, luxury properties, including three award-winning resorts in the Caribbean. In addition, Rosewood has several of America's most exclusive city hotels, including the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, and The Carlyle, a Rosewood hotel in New York City.
Scores of students who call the Elizabeth Estates Children's Home their home are returning to school this fall semester equipped to take on another year of classroom learning thanks to Team Mosaic.
In an effort to give back and show their love and appreciation for the Bahamian community, team members from Mosaic Restaurant banded together and hosted a back-to-school drive in support of the youngsters at the home.
"We at Mosaic -- Front of House division -- have committed ourselves to the effort of giving back and we all agreed that the best focus we can have is on our nation's youth, the future of this great country called The Bahamas," said restaurant manager, Shawn Saunders.
"Back-to-school is an important time for so many youngsters. We all fully understand that our economy is still in the process of recovering and so we decided to put our attention to those youngsters who are less fortunate, specifically those at the Elizabeth Estates Children's Home, and help them prepare for the start of another school year," he said.
Book bags, books, pens, pencils, pens, rulers crayons and notepads were among the items donated to the thankful youngsters and staff.
"We all firmly believe that if you willingly give from the heart, the benefits are bountiful and bountiful were the smiles on the faces of those kids. Both the kids and their guardians expressed a high sense of gratitude which we truly appreciated. This is what can happen when we all come together for one goal," said Saunders.
The Pointe gives back
Although small in size, the team at The Pointe decided to lend a helping hand and give back to the community through a donation of school supplies to Great Commission Ministries located on Wulff Road.
Great Commission Ministries is an organization which assists the less fortunate on a daily basis wherever possible. The donation is the team's way of making a positive impact, albeit a small one, in the community.