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News Article
Jarrett: Inflation data shows GDP overstated

The All-Bahamas consumer price index (CPI) showed inflation averaged 3.7 percent for July through September 2011, according to an analyst vigilantly following the key indicator of consumer buying power.

The average increased from 2.5 percent and 3.4 percent for quarters one and two of the 2011 calendar, respectively, according to retired banker Al Jarrett in an interview Friday. 

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News Article
Grand Lucayan , Not just for Tourists.
Grand Lucayan , Not just for Tourists.

Grand Bahama Island is a summer getaway hot spot for international travelers, but what about the locals? Grand Lucayan, Bahamas knows that local residents enjoy island life everyday, but even they need a relaxing escape!

Through Nov. 15, 2013, local Bahamian residents can take advantage of Grand Lucayan’s Local Resident Offer with rates starting at just $89 per night. And, for those getting a head start on holiday travel plans, guests who book a stay from Dec. 26, 2013 to Jan. 1, 2014 will receive a complimentary upgrade to an Ocean View One Bedroom Suite and a bottle of house wine. Guests can simply enter BHSUM when booking their reservation. Local Bahamas ID or passport is required upon check-in.

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News Article
Ministry of Tourism Launches Island Challenge
Ministry of Tourism Launches Island Challenge

The Ministry of Tourism has unveiled plans on for a 14-island multi-level promotional strategy that will highlight the Family Islands.

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News Article
Family Extends Vacation In Florida After Teen Tourist Disappears From Walmart

The family of a 16 year-old Bahamian girl who went missing while on a shopping trip to Walmart is officially speaking out now that they have made the decision to extend their stay in Florida to continue searching for her. The decision came after they met with local law enforcement and after they discovered social media accounts for the missing teen, Charencia ‘Renci’ Charlisa Gay, were no longer accessible...

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News Article
Abaco Festival To Feature Float And Dog Parades

'Christmas in the Bahamas' is the theme for this year's Abaco Christmas Festival.

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Business Listing

Marathon Bahamas
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  • Nassau / Paradise Island, Bahamas
News Article
Commemorating 15 years of diplomatic relations between China and The Bahamas

May 23 marks the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationship between the People's Republic of China and the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, which coincides with first sitting of the House of Assembly following the May 7 general election of The Bahamas. I hereby wish to express once again my sincere congratulations to the new government. In the meantime, I wish to take this opportunity to review the gratifying achievements which have been made between China and The Bahamas in such fields as politics, the economy, investment, culture and education, and look forward to the future potential and opportunities before us. By so doing, I hope that we can take the two important events as an opportunity for greater achievements between us and raise the bilateral relations to a new height.
Despite the far distance between the two countries, the exchange between China and The Bahamas has a long history, with people-to-people friendly contact for at least over a century. The fact that there are no historical grievances or immediate disputes between China and The Bahamas lays a solid foundation for the development of bilateral relations. Moreover, it is also in line with the interests of the two countries and the two peoples to develop the bilateral relations.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the relationship between China and The Bahamas has entered a new era of comprehensive development. The two countries surmounted the differences in ideology and social system, worked closely together and brought the advantage of the mutual complementarities into full play, thus resulting in rich rewards.
Politically, China and The Bahamas have respected each other and treated each other equally, giving rise to the frequent high-level exchange of visits. Here I just want to mention some of the important ones. Former Governor General Orville Turnquest, Prime Minister Perry Christie and former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham visited China in 1999, 2004 and 1997, respectively. Former President of the Senate Lynn Holowesko and Former Speaker of the House Alvin Smith visited China in 2010. Chairman Wu Bangguo of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress (NPC), Vice Chairman Cheng Siwei of the NPC visited The Bahamas in 2009 and 2005, respectively. Vice Premier Hui Liangyu and Vice Premier Wang Qishan visited The Bahamas in 2009 and 2011 in succession. We also have State Counsellor Wu Yi and Deputy Chair Wang Lequan of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee of the Communist Party of China Central Committee who visited The Bahamas in 2003 and 2011, respectively.
Through those high-level exchange of visits, mutual political trust between the two countries has been strengthened and mutual understanding has been promoted, which set the right orientation of the bilateral friendly cooperation and laid a solid foundation for the bilateral cooperation in varying sectors.
Apart from the visits at the state level, there were also a number of ministerial-level exchange of visits between the two countries.

Trade and economy
In the international and regional arena, China and The Bahamas share the same or similar stance in major international and regional issues and have maintained good communication and coordination.
Economically, the two countries have realized a win-win scenario through cooperation of equality and mutual-benefit. China and The Bahamas are highly complementary, with great potential of cooperation and a wide range of cooperative sectors.
Over the years, China and The Bahamas have signed a number of agreements related to the economy, trade and relevant areas, such as the agreement on maritime transactions, the agreement on protection and promotion of mutual investment, the agreement for the exchange of information for tax purposes, the agreements on economic and technical cooperation, the MOU on the implementation of Chinese tourist groups to The Bahamas and the MOU on agricultural cooperation.
The signing of those agreements and MOUs has provided legal framework for the bilateral cooperation in relevant fields. Through bringing the advantage of complementarities into full play, the trade between the two countries has kept increasing, mutual investment has kept expanding, which has brought real benefits to the two countries and the two peoples.
According to statistics, the total trade volume between the two countries in recent years has been at the level of over US$600 million. Chinese enterprises have invested US$150 million as well as a US$2.45 billion commercial loan in The Bahamas. At the same time, The Bahamas has all together invested 194 projects in China, with the total contact volume of US$187.7 million.
In addition, China and The Bahamas have jointly worked together for some projects in The Bahamas by means of using Chinese preferential loans as well as Chinese assistance under bilateral economic and technical agreements.
The newly-dedicated Thomas A. Robison National Stadium of The Bahamas is a hallmark project of the China-Bahamas economic and technical cooperation, which has made the long-term desire of the Bahamian people come true. The Airport Gateway Project is going on well.
And the Baha Mar mega-resort, which the Chinese side has offered commercial loans for, partly invested in and is conducting the construction of, has already created more than a 1,000 job opportunities for the locals, thus having effectively reduced the negative impact on the Bahamian employment caused by the current global financial crisis. It is expected that, upon the completion by the end of 2014, the project will create a total of more than 10,000 direct and indirect job opportunities, which, I am sure, will provide fresh impetus for the growth of the Bahamian tourism industry in particular, and for the economy as a whole.
Talking about the economic cooperation between China and The Bahamas, I'd like to stress the principle China has all along upheld, that is, the economic cooperation between China and The Bahamas is with no political string attached, with no other country targeted at and with no exclusion of the third party.

Culture and education
Culturally and Educationally, the two countries have drawn on the merits of each other and sought mutual complementarities. An acrobatic troupe, a puppet show troupe and a children's performance troupe from China visited The Bahamas while the national youth choir and a song and dance troupe visited China. The president of the Nassau Music Society went to China recently for a visit while the president of the Chinese Musicians Association will visit The Bahamas with a string quartet in his company in early July. And also, China will for the first time take part in the Bahamas International Film Festival in December.
Over the past years, the Chinese government has provided full scholarships for 40 Bahamian students to study in China, and has provided approximately 100 Bahamian government and professional personnel with various symposiums and seminars in China. In order to meet the needs of the Bahamians in their enthusiasm of learning the Chinese language as well as the Chinese culture, a Confucius Class was set up at The College of The Bahamas in 2009 and, with mutual consent, it will be upgraded to a Confucius Institute. Now both sides are working hard for that and the inauguration is sure to be realized soon.
In areas such as tourism, agriculture, aviation and health, both sides have also conducted useful communication and research. I am sure new progress will be made steadily.

A look ahead
Through the above brief review, it is not hard to see that the past 15 years are 15 years of considerable progress between China and The Bahamas, with mutual trust increased, friendship deepened and cooperation expanded. The past 15 years are 15 years worthy of congratulations for the tangible benefits brought to the two countries and the two peoples. And the past 15 years are 15 years of win-win cooperation, with common development fostered and thus the win-win goal realized.
Looking ahead, both countries are in an important stage for economic and social development, and thus having broad common interests between them. I can foresee a bright prospect for further development in the bilateral relationship and that a lot more can be done in many aspects.
With the in-depth development of economic globalization and the rapid progress of technology, in particular information technology, the world is becoming "smaller and smaller", just like "an earth village". All countries are so intertwined and interdependent. Their interests are fused to such an unprecedented level that the common interests are becoming broader and broader. There are more and more things demanding joint efforts and the desire of mutual cooperation has never been so strong. Such being the case, the world in some sense is becoming a "community of interests", no country can gain development with itself isolated.
As a big responsible developing country, China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace and sticks to a peaceful development road. It has all along dedicated itself to a harmonious society domestically and has initiated an ever-lasting harmonious world internationally.
Over the past 30 years, China has obtained eye-catching achievements with a long-term steady and relatively fast development by opening up and reform - in particular by its strategy of "going global" and "bringing in". By 2010, China had attracted an accumulative amount of US$759.5 billion in foreign capital, ranking first in the world. Meanwhile, the capital Chinese enterprises invested overseas also increased very fast, the amount of which in the year 2010 alone reached up to US$68.8 billion. In 2011, China's total GDP was close to US$7.5 trillion, ranking second in the world. The current foreign exchange reserve had reached over US$3.18 trillion.
Through reform and opening-up, China has not only developed itself but contributed positively to the economic and social development of the rest of the world, thus realizing its goal of common development. Just as Chinese President Hu Jintao put it, China is willing to work together with people from all other countries to share the development opportunities and to cope with all sorts of challenges so that more countries and peoples could benefit from the development of China. The Bahamas is of course included.
In 2011, the relations between China and the Caribbean countries continued to develop. The six measures raised by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan at the third Forum on China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation are well received by the Caribbean countries.
Tourism is regarded as the pillar of the Bahamian economy. It is imperative to open up new markets to maintain healthy development of this pillar industry, and China is an ideal choice in this regard. With the continuous growth of the Chinese economy, the number of outbound Chinese visitors is increasing year by year.
In 2011, the number climbed up to a new high of 70.25 million persons, and the Chinese tourists have eyed some leading world tourism destinations that are not well-known in China such as The Bahamas. In 2011, the number of Chinese tourists and business travelers that directly went from China to the U.S. was 1.36 million persons. This year, the number will possibly be close to nearly two million.
Suppose The Bahamas government provides policy convenience for Chinese tourists? It will surely stimulate the tourism industry of The Bahamas. If direct flights between China and The Bahamas can be in place, it will further promote the development of the Bahamian tourism and related industries.
China is a big traditional agricultural country, successfully feeding 20 percent of world's population with only seven percent of the world's arable land. China has the advantage of money and technology while The Bahamas has unused land for agricultural development. If the Bahamians are self-sufficient in agriculture, the living cost will be greatly reduced. So I believe that there's great potential for China and The Bahamas to cooperate in agriculture.
Traditional Chinese medicine has a long history of several thousand years, and it is quite effective to all kinds of diseases, in particular some difficult and complicated cases. The Bahamas has abundant plants that can be used as medicine and some folk prescriptions. If China and The Bahamas can carry out cooperation in this area, bringing in some Chinese medical skills that are less costly yet very effective, such as acupuncture and bone specialty (orthopedics), it will really be good news to the Bahamians.
A good beginning is half a battle. With the good beginning of cultural exchange between the two countries, I am fully convinced that the cultural exchange will develop further together with the increase of contact of personnel between the two countries.
The Bahamas is also a wind and sun rich country while China has advanced skills and capability in wind and solar power. Cooperation in this area will not only reduce the electricity costs of the Bahamian people, but effectively protect the Bahamian environment from being damaged.
I am delighted to feel that it has become a consensus between the government and the general public of The Bahamas to further develop China-Bahamas relations. I am fully confident of the future development of the bilateral relationship and the future prospect of The Bahamas as well. The Chinese side is willing to take the opportunity of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries to carry on the past and open a way for the future. We will work together with the Bahamian side for more cooperative fields and greater achievements in effort to make more contributions to the two countries and the two peoples as well as the peace and development of the world.

o Hu Shan is the Chinese ambassador to The Bahamas.

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News Article
What is the creative economy

The word economy is thrown around a lot in society, but how the world thinks about economic possibility is undergoing a significant change. This Thursday, the multidisciplinary and collaborative network tmg* (the method group) will host their last of three discussions centered on business and design in The Bahamas. After discussing the design and business of producing and promoting "The Bahamian story" and exploring such branding through the case study of architecture, tmg* member Royann Dean brings together a panel of artists, creative entrepreneurs, critical thinkers, economists and politicians to explore how all of this comes together in the creative economy.
On June 16th at 6:30pm at The Hub, panelists John Cox, Jon Murray, Nicolette Bethel, Olivia Saunders and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Maynard will engage this very complex issue concerning the state of our economy and society.
The creative economy in a broad sense can encapsulate everything at the four-way intersection of art, business, culture and technology. If that sounds hard to pin down, that's because it is -- it's an offshoot of the knowledge economy, and like the knowledge economy, its effects can't entirely be tangibly measured like the imports and exports of other industries. But that doesn't mean it's less valuable or should be overlooked -- on the contrary, creative economy is an extremely important factor in the way a country efficiently and consistently brands itself and grows and thrives. Creative entrepreneurship by artists, nonprofits and businesses can produce goods and services that not only generate jobs and revenue in a country's economy, but also have far-reaching positive societal effects.
"One of the benefits that's been stated about the creative economy is, aside from the economic side of it, that you have social inclusion, because you don't necessarily need to have this division between trained people and less-trained people, because creativity can be reflected in all parts of generating economy," Royann Dean explains. "You have cultural diversity because at all levels people can create something based on culture or heritage and still generate income; and there's more social interaction because you have these people that are going to be bridging these divides to actually create something."
CREATIVE ECONOMY
The concept of a creative economy is relatively new; the term began appearing sometime around the turn of the century and has become particularly relevant in the age ofglobalization and rapid modernization. Yet, Dean points out, as the rest of the Caribbean region and indeed world embraces this perspective by encouraging creative entrepreneurship initiatives, The Bahamasseems woefully out of touch with this worldwide shift.
She uses the example of the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development (UNCTAD)'s Creative Economy Report 2010, which analyzes and measures the state of creative economy worldwide. The Bahamas is hardly mentioned alongside varied case studies and efforts by other countries in the region such as Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. We're essentially ten years behind in terms of creative economy development when we look at our neighbors, Dean points out.
This lack of quantifying our creative industries to gauge its economic benefits is worrying to panelist Jon Murray, who is an entrepreneur in this relatively new and underappreciated sector. He started Downtown Art Tours last year, giving locals and visitors alike a sampling of artistic spaces in our historic city, including the National Art Gallery, The D'Aguilar Foundation, New Providence Arts and Antiques and the murals the Love My Bahamas campaign.
"What's interesting about what I do is that it's service-based," he says. "I provide a service for this stuff that already preexists, so it's almost like a secondary industry where I'm not marketing or selling the works themselves; I have no ownership of the intellectual properties created, which is interesting because so much of creative economy is based on intellectual property."
"I think my business is a service business dependent on there actually being a creative economy," he continues. "Without the other institution and galleries functioning, I can't function appropriately. It shows a level of maturity in our industry if it were on paper."
But, he points out, it's not on paper -- in fact, there are hardly initiatives in place by any sector of society to measure the effects of creative industries and thus investment in potential exports for the country. This is unacceptable for many reasons, one being that our future potential as a destination in the globalized world hinges on culture and heritage -- not the same old sun, sand and sea.
Moderator Royann Dean hopes to also address this idea of "the experience economy" during the talk as it is important to the creative economy. After all, once tourists have their needs met, they seek an overall experience different from any other worldwide, and they are able to get that from culture and heritage.
"For tourism economy-based countries, that's a huge reason to have a good creative industry. This is the same thing Jackson Burnside was talking about 20 years ago -- we have the sun, sand and sea but people aren't going to be coming here for that anymore. Other countries have sun, sand and sea, plus they have mountains," Dean points out. "So the one thing we have going for us in terms of that is accessibility -- but Cuba is right there, and you can already use Euros in Cuba, so where is our experience? Where is our authentic experience? You can't really deliver an authentic experience unless you have something related to some sort of creative or cultural heritage, you can't."
Dean seems to be on point with the global perspective, for in the same UNCTAD Creative Economy 2010 report, their assessment for the region by the organization results in this advice: "In order for Jamaica and the Caribbean to survive in a globalized world, policymakers and stakeholders seeking economic growth and job creation must position the creative industries as the cornerstone of any serious development strategy."
Yet, points out fellow panelist Nicolette Bethel -- educator, anthropologist ,writer and former Director of Cultural Affairs -- we are lacking in that promotion through governmental policy.
"The Bahamas has absolutely no data because we don't think there is anything measurable about the creative economy," she says. "It's sad, but it is a measure of a) who we continue to elect into office and b) who they bring into civil service."
BRANDING & MARKETABILITY
In spite of this and recognizing the need for individuals to drive such change, working with the College of The Bahamas, Bethel has been producing measurable statistics about one of our main cultural industries that have export potential in terms of branding and marketability, and also potential to generate economy within the country: Junkanoo.
These surveys have uncovered quite a bit of information about the cost of Junkanoo, the Junkanoo participant, and also the Junkanoo consumer -- three parts of which can overall address how useful Junkanoo is to the economy, how it functions in branding and tourism, and how it can be used to generate economy in these sectors as well as become a viable source of income for its participants, making it a legitimate and measurable component of our creative economy. Bethel supposes that by making Junkanoo a major part of our creative economy, The Bahamas will see social improvements.
"Junkanoo is our major creative activity. One thing we are able to say is that Junkanoo involves thousands of people every year and many of these people are young men who are not necessarily hugely employable. Now, we have a major problem with unemployment and crime. What we haven't begun to measure is how much in man-hours each person was in the shack, how many hours that is, and just calculate the minimum wage, and thus the value of that particular commodity," she explains.
"If there was some way of generating revenue for some time that they were there -- I think that there are all kinds of ways to generate revenue -- then these people would be working, they'd have jobs. And they'd have jobs they'd generate their own money for that the government wouldn't have to do anything with. In Trinidad for example, this is a major part of their economy. The challenge to the Junkanoo community is how are we going to take all of these man-hours and make them profitable -- make them able to sustain some measure of employment for these guys?"
One way is to up our marketing of Junkanoo--and indeed, all cultural sectors -- to tourists, and this is where our government comes in. After all, they draft the policies that contribute to our branding. Yet this is the area in which Bethel -- and many participants in the creative and heritage sector in this country -- recognize our downfall. While elsewhere in the Caribbean, cultural festivals are seen as a viable source of tourism, employment generation and income, we seem to lack such perspective in The Bahamas, putting cultural events such as hosting CARIFESTA -- which twice we unsuccessfully attempted -- on the backburner.
It's shame because in the same UNCTAD report, they point out that "Heritage tourists are one of the highest-yield tourism groups; they stay longer and spend 38 percent more per day than traditional tourists. Therefore," they continue, " efficient heritage tourism policies and infrastructure at regional level can be an important approach to attract international travelers with special interest in heritage and the arts of the Caribbean region."
So why aren't we catching up to this fact? This is where the creative economy and how it is generated and promoted becomes a chicken-or-the-egg dance between government responsibility and responsibility by the creative community.
GOVERNMENT & POLICY-MAKING
Panelist Charles Maynard, the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, is hoping to add the perspective from the government and policy-making side. Though he agrees that the cultural economy is important and should be developed and structured, his solution lies in the ability by the creative sector to take charge and make the government take notice. He uses Junkanoo to illustrate his point as it's our main creative industry.
"Over a period time Junkanoo has become popular for the general public and the funding followed it. When you have a large sector of your population involved in something and trying to push it forward, those are the kind of things that usually get the attention of the policy-makers," he explains. "The commitment to culture region-wide is always driven by the cultural community itself. If you depend on any government to drive your cultural development in terms of cultural expression and cultural economy, it isn't going to get anywhere."
What Minister Maynard implies in this statement is something many artists already unfortunately -- that they only have each other. In the end, panelist John Cox points out, creative people just make the most of what they have, making connections within the field and with those who can fund them. As founder of Popop Studios -- which recently became an international center of visual arts with their new not-for-profit status, allowing them to invite international artists to work in The Bahamas -- Cox recognizes the power of collaboration and education and the need to move beyond the limited idea of what being an artist or even being creative entails.
"Students say 'I want to do art' but they never really know exactly what they want to do because it's kind of presented to them in these vague terms all throughout primary and secondary school. So they have this vague idea of what it means to be creative, and most of that comes from the idea of well, if they make a hundred paintings and they sell them for a hundred dollars each, that's a hundred thousands dollars, and that's a pretty good salary, right?" he explains. "So we have this kind of basic kind of lemonade stall mentality, which isn't really the way businesses sustain each other. Really the way businesses kind of sustain each other is by networking and partnering and being able to predict long-term relationships with people where you know you're going to be able to build and predict support and also be able to provide an audience for your product, spawning positive future potential and future potential relationships that can build sustainability."
We've already seen that kind of mentality change just in the past five years, for in fact, many artist-run collectives -- the Bahamas Art Collective and Creative Nassau, for example -- are doing just that: bringing together people from all sectors of the creative community to think about creating their own opportunities, self-empowerment and making Nassau a cultural center in the world. Already dissatisfaction about governmental support and a desire to improve the standing of The Bahamas in the creative sector have spawned events just in the past few years such as Shakespeare in Paradise, Carifringe, The Bahamas International Film Festival and the Bahamas Writer's Summer Institute. In the end, it seems artists are always on their own, although they may band together.
UNTAPPED POTENTIAL
But why exactly is this so? And how is the government already investing in the art it sees as having proven itself -- would that be Junkanoo, with already a tremendous amount of untapped potential that we aren't recognizing? The question then seems to become: How do we change what we think is important and worth investing in? Minister Maynard offers the solution of instilling that indefinable "Bahamian spirit" found in Junkanoo in all aspects of the creative sector, but all that offers is more of the same kind of creativity and way of thinking, when creative economy is about reevaluation -- as Royann Dean puts it, "Nobody is looking for new ways to do things, they are looking for new ways to do the same old thing. We need to challenge things." Even Minister Maynard recognizes what's needed is an upheaval of the perception of creativity, even if it is within the perspective of the creative sector simply being responsible for themselves, which is only one dimension of this reality.
"We need to as a country appreciate some of these things we create, to have value for what's ours instead of importing it," he says. "It's cultural awareness, it's a collective thing to be able to team up and do as partners do, not sitting down and feeling sorry for yourself and saying the government isn't doing anything to get you any further in terms of where you want to go -- instead we need to say we need to be more focused not only from an individual standpoint but a collective vision standpoint, we need to have a collective vision."
This is something that panelist Olivia Saunders -- economist and educator -- is most concerned about when she thinks about the economic implications of the creative industry. For when we talk about the creative economy, we're not just talking about the arts -- we're talking about having a creative approach in general to our economy.
"I think I'll look from the perspective that we have to look beyond the boundaries we have set for ourselves in terms of what the economy is and what the economy is supposed to do for us or what the economy is supposed to be. We just have to be creative and think differently about our economy in The Bahamas," she says. "One side of it is how creative we are in this existing economy, whether we think the economy we have is creative. Does it lend itself to creativity, or are we to be considering a brand new kind of economy we can truly call creative? Once we do that, what ought it to mean for us then if we decide to design a sort of creative economy?"
Essentially, she points out, flaws in the systems of our everyday lives contribute to this mindset.
"It's a culture. If you look at our politics, it's not really creative. If you look at so many other aspects of our life, they're not creative," she says. "The economy is an extremely important part of it but it's just a part of how we just look at things, we really don't want too many things to be very different from what we know for sure, so at the very core there has to be people being sufficiently open to accept creativity."
In the end, it would seem it all comes down to how we value ourselves as a culture. After all, if we value intellectualism, if we value creativity, if we value our heritage and indeed ourselves, we become a society open to creative ways to engage and advance our economical structure. And that responsibility is not on any one group, but each group, and each individual, and certainly with response from an open-minded government.
However these only scratch the surface of what the creative economy even is and how to improve it -- the deeper we go, the more we come full circle or stare into an abyss. The first step, Royann Dean emphasis, is to educate yourself about options -- all creative thinkers, government employees, and even people who believe they are not affected by the creative industry, for if the creative economy operates as it should, it affects the entire society positively.
"The whole idea behind tmg* talks was to get the conversation started, to get the ball rolling and to let people know that listen, there are other people thinking the same things you are, asking the same questions and who have ideas. Things can happen," Dean says. "In that way, I'm happy with the result. The question is, what happens after? How do we put the insight that was gained from the talks in motion?"
Have some ideas? Collaboration is the first step, and everyone matters. The discussion begins at 6:30pm at The Hub on Colebrook Lane and East Bay Street and is free to the public though you are welcome to donate to the venue. For more information, visit the tmg* website at www.tmginnovates.com.

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News Article
What needs to happen in tourism

The Ministry of Tourism's February 2012  "Islands of The Bahamas Arrivals Report" contains some very useful and informative data on the tourism industry in The Bahamas, and a lot more information on the economic performances of those countries from which our visitors originate.
The report, compiled by the ministry's research department, provides a summary of total visitor arrivals to The Bahamas for the year 2011, in what appears to be a record-breaking total of 5.234 million.  That figure is broken down further to show that only 1.29 million of those visitors (or about 25 percent) arrived by air.
There is something troubling about that figure when it is taken into account that about 25 years ago The Bahamas was boasting total air arrivals in the region of 1.5 million.  What is more troubling is the fact that we are in the midst of the worst recession ever experienced in a modern Bahamas and the agency which oversees our most important industry appears to be offering no concrete solutions.
Almost 75 percent of the report outlines the economic challenges facing the United States as a result of the crash of the housing market there, and the subsequent financial meltdown.  The rise in unemployment, particularly in the northeastern states, is highlighted perhaps to remind us that the reason for the poor performance of our local economy is tied to employment levels in the U.S.  It is also noted that Texas, contrary to popular belief, generates more tourists for The Bahamas than many of the northeastern states.
Similar information is provided on Canada and the western European nations whose citizens also visit The Bahamas, although not in such great numbers as the Americans.  Again, the intent is presumably to inform us that it is the global slowdown in economic activity that is adversely affecting our visitor arrivals (by air) and consequently contributing to the slow economic growth figures.
Those examples, or more appropriately arguments, would have been more persuasive had we not been made aware from other sources that air arrival tourists were up and growing impressively in our competitor destinations, such as Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Cancun, Mexico.  Some mention of the costly and perhaps unsustainable subsidies to the industry in the form of 'companion airfare' is given as a successful policy response to the crisis.
For more than half a century tourism has played a pivotal role in the economic development process of this country.  It has accounted for most of the foreign direct investment, more than 50 percent of direct and indirect employment, and has provided the necessary level of foreign exchange inflows to not only fund our insatiable import appetite but also to support the important one-to-one peg between the U.S. dollar and the Bahamian dollar.

Changes needed
In other words, unless and until we fix whatever is wrong with our tourism industry (and fix it urgently), the economic and social dislocations currently being experienced in the country will continue unabated.  Large numbers of skilled and semi-skilled Bahamians will join the unemployed labor force. Unable to meet their debt commitments, they run the risk of losing their homes and other assets acquired during better times.  Unable to provide the needed level of support for their immediate families, the inevitable household tension could rip families apart.
What is needed is a recognition of the importance of the tourist industry to The Bahamas in general and to the partial solution to the current economic crisis in particular.  In the short-term, attempts to stimulate other less important parts of the economy or programs to diversify production from our main service provider simply will not create the number or types of jobs sufficient to absorb the unemployed.
The tourism plant, in terms of existing and planned hotel rooms, needs some form of re-tooling to ensure it is functioning at its optimal potential.  We know for instance that the costs of labor and utilities are out of line with our competitors, placing the country at a pricing disadvantage.  Those areas need to be addressed, perhaps by permitting the hotel operators to produce (hopefully more efficiently) their utility needs rather than relying on the inefficient state-owned corporations.
Above all, we need more air-arrivals since that category of visitor spends more than 10 times what is spent by their cruise counterparts, making a larger contribution to employment and output in the country.  The Bahamas at this time in our history needs a fresh, focused and comprehensive plan to increase the number of air arrivals in order to produce the required number of jobs and to begin the process to effectively reverse the unemployment trend.

oCFAL is a sister company of The Nassau Guardian under the AF Holdings Ltd. umbrella.  CFAL provides investment management, research, brokerage and pension services.  For comments, please contact CFAL at: column@cfal.com.

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VAT expert: Anti-VAT hoteliers 'never satisfied'

Hotel sector representatives that complain about value-added tax (VAT) are simply "greedy and never satisfied", according to a top regional VAT expert, who argued that it is the quality of the product and not the rate of tax applied to it that will determine a destination's competitiveness.
Speaking at an Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Bahamas Chapter meeting, where he delivered a presentation on the topic "Mitigating VAT implementation risks", Mark Shorey said it is only right that the burden of taxation is also carried by tourists visiting a country as it is by locals.
Meanwhile, the internationally-recognized tax consultant said that hotels throughout the region are already subject to a wide range of tax concessions.
Shorey, a senior manager with Ernst and Young (Barbados) and managing director of Cover Point Services Inc, an indirect tax consultancy, who has 45 years of experience in this field and also played an integral role in the Barbados government's VAT implementation team, made his comments during a question and answer session at the IIA meeting at the British Colonial Hilton yesterday, after being asked for his thoughts on the tourism sector's concerns about VAT in the Bahamian context.
He said: "There's a belief that tourists look at every single tax they pay. Most of the issues relating to tourists is to do with the perceptions of locals working in the business. I say this from experience. I was part of the discussions over taxation - every sector wanted to be in a zero-rated position. They wanted to pay no tax, and if that happened there'd be no revenue.
"People come to The Bahamas. There's this fear of people not coming, but people will come because it's a good product. People are coming for the product, not the tax. If the product deteriorates that is when you have a problem.
"There was a survey of British tourists (coming to some of the southern Caribbean islands). Most of the people are not concerned about VAT, they are concerned about airline fares. So basically there's a lot of fear among hoteliers."
"A lot has been done for hotels throughout the region," he said.
Noting that there is presently a threat of a class action law suit against the government in Barbados over a decision to grant additional tax concessions to Sandals in that country, which has led to a discussion by the government of whether it must now "level the playing field", Shorey commented that it appears hotels are "greedy and never satisfied".
"The country has to operate and not only locals have to pay the tax burden for health, education; some of the tourists have to pay too."
The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association has come out strongly against a 15 percent VAT being introduced on July 1, 2013, arguing that it will be seriously detrimental to the price competitiveness of the tourism sector and counterproductive to the government's revenue-raising objectives.
Speaking on the subject of the VAT rate, Shorey said that this should be the subject of an "informed" decision.
"When VAT was supposed to be introduced in 1995 (in Barbados), I made a comment to the media about the rate and said I know of no study that was done. When the prime minister realized no study was done, he commissioned a study. So what I would say is that by now the prime minister should've done a full study on VAT, taking all things into consideration, the taxes it will replace, the base for the tax which is now broad in incorporating goods and services, and any other factor that will affect the rate, and make a determination based on informed information, objective data. It's important that you make a decision based on that."
Shorey added that based on the revenue raising success of VAT in the first six months to a year, the government can then make further decisions on how it can adjust the system.
"So rather than fearing the VAT, what you need to do is ensure that the system starts with a team that will enforce it properly, and based on the first year's findings it gives the government the opportunity to look at it and see if there are any other areas they can look at to ease taxation, especially on the poor. There are ways you can address its regressivity based on the yield of VAT.
"These are things that worked well in Barbados and I believe the Barbados experience is one that would stand The Bahamas in good stead with respect to VAT implementation," said Shorey, who added that he was speaking in his personal capacity.

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