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Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
Sonia: I had the privilege of working for the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island from 2002-2005. It was a breakthrough opportunity for me after serving seven years at the Ministry of Works as a design engineer and project manager. In the role at Atlantis I drew on my project management skills, as I had responsibility for executing an annual multi-million dollar capital budget for all the senior vice presidents of the company who were at the time my internal customers. Unlike in the public sector I was given a lot of autonomy to run the projects department. I, of course, closely coordinated with the heads of the facilities division but felt empowered, and I was expected to succeed.
I currently own and operate a full service mechanical and electrical engineering consultancy and, as it turns out, my major project is the Baha Mar Development resort being undertaken on Cable Beach. Graphite Engineering Ltd. has been selected as the Mechanical and Electrical Engineers of Record for this project.
GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Sonia: I did not choose tourism specifically as a career, but as a consequence of what was available in the economy. An opportunity in tourism presented itself and I was pleased to embrace it. Bahamian engineers continue to be under represented in major tourism projects at the level of design and onwards. This will only change if we continue to build capacity and, when given an opportunity, we provide stellar service.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Sonia: My team was given the opportunity to oversee the renovation of the Crown Ballroom. By dollar value it was the largest project given to our department. It was not a technically challenging assignment but we had a very short time frame to deliver the project, and we were able to get it done.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Sonia: As it specifically refers to the engineering services in hotels, there have been a myriad of changes because the mechanical and electrical systems that support these buildings, keeping them lit and cool, continue to be more sophisticated.
GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Sonia: We are currently sitting on an opportunity to aggressively push sustainable tourism and make this a given for any property in The Bahamas. We should require that our hotels in the first instance be high performance buildings, with excellent carbon footprints. We should be reusing, recycling and cutting waste. If we can do this without hurting our cost competitiveness we would set ourselves apart from the pack and demonstrate that we really care about our country.
GB: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?
Sonia: Do your homework, literally. There a lot of opportunities very high up in the food chain of these resorts that Bahamians can fill. We must accept the fact that a lot of the developers are multi-national companies and it means we may be competing with international persons for jobs at home. This means we need to get international exposure and experience, and be prepared to function at the top of our game.
Now that the general election has been concluded, the average Bahamian must not and should not expect the ushering in of "heaven on earth". The challenges which confront the Christie administration are exceedingly great but I am more than persuaded that they will be overcome, where possible, and managed effectively where they cannot be totally eradicated.
Perry Christie, a lifelong friend, and his team have a rocky road ahead. The expectations of most Bahamians have been heightened and crystallized by electoral hype and promises. No one governmental initiative will ever be able to eradicate crime and the fear of crime. Already we have recorded some seven alleged homicides since the advent of the Christie administration.
Some deluded political pundits and their half-baked cronies have "blamed" the incoming Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration for these alleged homicides. Crime exists within the mind and ability of all of us but the distinction between law-abiding people and the actual criminals is simple. The latter acts out his/her inclinations. The rest of us either walk away or resort to conflict resolution.
Far too many of our younger people have been born and reared in hostile and debilitating circumstances. Mind you, these are not absolute excuses for anti-social behavior but they do not help the stark reality. A large number of our youth, especially, the males, tend to drop out of or abandon the educational system for whatever reasons.
As a result they are "dumb" and "un-trainable" in far too many cases. They end up following the life of a delusional thug and/or druggie. Society then pays a heavy price. Low income levels and menial jobs are the order of the day. This results in literal economic slavery and bogus personal goals. As a direct result, a majority of them are relegated to the life of serfdom/slavery.
Over the past five years, due to international financial circumstances and the cockeyed economic response by the outgoing Free National Movement (FNM) administration and its seemingly autocratic former leader, the Bahamian middle class has been decimated. We now have the phenomenon of the working poor. Thousands of homes have been foreclosed on and even more people now lead hopeless and non-productive lives. Many have been forced to beg, rob and steal. Some have had to resort to actual prostitution.
Of course, the FNM and its rejected leadership, across the board, cannot be entirely blamed for the prevailing economic and social conditions within the nation; but they sure assisted, greatly, in jacking us all up. Hubert Ingraham, God bless his soul, has now ridden off into the Abaconian sunset and left all of us holding "papa's brand new bag". That bag, such as it is, alas, is empty.
Most of us are now on the road to serfdom and will be picking peas out of shaving cream for a long time. Those rejects of the FNM will "survive" as most of them are professionals or business persons who have allegedly accumulated big money during their tenure in office. Some of them use to live amongst us, now they live behind high gates. Others always had access to money and the rest would have made business alliances and connections since being in office. There will also be one or two who will immediately move into the private sector in industries and trades which they once regulated.
The Christie administration must deal with three issues immediately: crime and its causes; massive unemployment and under-employment; and, of course, the jump starting of the economy. None of these issues will be a cakewalk and the prime minister must join with all stakeholders and reasonable Bahamians, across the political divide, in coming up with viable solutions.
These are "the best of times but also the most challenging of times" and the partisan nonsense must be stopped and stopped now. The issues, I submit, are all about bread and butter. Yes, there are other challenges but bread and butter ones are key.
I invite Dr. Bernard Nottage (PLP-Bains Town & Grants Town), the minister of national security, to call a conclave within the next 30 days of all relevant parties at a secure retreat to hash out all important matters related to his portfolio -- no grandstanding and certainly no political posturing.
The clergy, members from civil society, law enforcement agencies and others should huddle down at Gambier or Adelaide for a day or two away from the daily distractions. There is no need to go over to Atlantis or over to any other "big name" resort. In fact, I suggest the use of the facilities of small Bahamian hoteliers and restaurants.
Relative to unemployment, the minister of labour, the minister of finance and the minister of immigration should also hold a retreat with stakeholders and others to flesh out workable solutions to the vexing problem of unemployment and under-employment.
Bahamians, once again, must come first in our own nation. Where foreign investors need to be courted, so be it but local entrepreneurs must be offered the exact same incentives and access to capital -- no more, no less. Slack immigration and migration of illegal persons must be addressed and stopped within the next 60 days.
As a person who believes in reconciliation and consensus, I am not prone to call for the appointment of commissions of inquiry, but they must be convoked to investigate many of the acts done by the FNM while in office. No, we don't need a witch hunt, but the chips must fall where they may. Too much "funny business" may have gone down over the past five years and we must get to the bottom of it if we are to get off the road to serfdom.
Christie and his administration, if they do the right things, may well remain in power for the next decade. If they fail, however, they know, by now, that the Bahamian electorate has awoken from its long slumber and will not tolerate slackness, nepotism and gross neglect from our political leaders. If they slip, history will not be too kind to them.
To God then, in all things, be the glory.
- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
The announcement that Resorts World Genting in partnership with RAV Bahamas, Ltd. will open a 10,000 square foot casino at the Bimini Bay Resort and Marina this December is welcome news. With unemployment hovering around 15 percent and Grand Bahama struggling with unemployment around 21 percent, this investment has near term tangible benefits.
The Bahamas needs a diverse portfolio of hotel accommodations and entertainment, a luxury boutique gaming resort certainly adds to that repertoire. We can thank Atlantis for a grand introduction to the mass tourist market but The Bahamas is much more than Paradise Island, we are a nation of 700 islands and surely the world is ready to see more.
With global press coverage, it begs the question as to who is Resorts World Genting? Resorts World Genting falls under Genting Malaysia Berhad, part of the multinational Genting Group, a consortium of companies and brands with significant market exposure in Asia only recently expanding to the Western Hemisphere.
The Bahamas is right to encourage and invite investment from the Genting Group; Resorts World Genting Resorts knows how to operate world class integrated resorts. World Genting won the World's Leading Casino Resort in 2005, 2007-2010, and Asia's Leading Casino Resort from 2005-2010.
As the prime minister noted, "Their vast customer base, marketing clout, and state-of-the-art operations will have a very positive impact on Bimini Bay Resort and the local economy, creating new construction and permanent operational jobs as well as entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians."
The Resorts World Genting brand name cannot be underestimated, the mere announcement of investment in The Bahamas made worldwide headlines thrusting The Bahamas into spotlight. This publicity attracts the attention of potential investors and developers; The Bahamas is open for business.
But there are still questions. Bimini has a population of 2,008 according to preliminary Census 2010 data released by the Department of Statistics. With an estimated 300 new jobs in the immediate future and the potential for additional 700, how will Bimini cope with the rapid increase in population?
Bimini will require substantial infrastructural improvements in the very near term to meet the expectations of the high net-worth individuals it so desperately seeks. Will Bimini's runway be expanded to accommodate larger jets? Will utilities be able to keep up with increased demand as the local and tourist population swell?
Should the casino operate with such predicted success to increase Bimini's economy by 25 percent; Bimini's infrastructure must be ready to handle the success.
And this leads to the definition of success, while predicted to be an economic success, is this a social success? We have gained the investment of an award winning integrated resort group, Genting, and yet, the very center of their investment, a luxury boutique casino touted with windows to display the tranquil beauty of The Bahamas, leaves Bahamians outside looking in? We praise the investment and invite all to enjoy the splendor of our country, but are Bahamians left out?
Kerzner International has won an extension on an anxiously awaited $2.6 billion mortgage debt restructure, Guardian Business can confirm -- something a local analyst has termed "not unusual".
In a statement Friday, a Kerzner spokesperson said the restructuring process is ongoing with its lenders.
"We can confirm that Kerzner has received an extension from our lenders and we continue to be in active and constructive discussions with them," read a statement sent to Guardian Business from the company. "It remains business as usual at all of our properties and resorts."
The comments follow several months of waiting for Kerzner International to finalize the restructuring of its mortgage debt.
The extension is not surprising, said C-FAL Chairman James Smith, given the current credit market and its affect on all businesses.
He points to recent decisions by several global agencies to revise the outlooks for both countries and companies alike.
Kerzner, he said, was not likely to be excluded from this approach.
"Credit markets are pretty cautious," he said.
"They are better off trying to ride out this recession. . . because it doesn't serve anyones interest to foreclose now.
"Economies depend on them [Kerzner properties] for jobs. . . and there is no one out there to take that one right now."
While a sale of the local Atlantis property had once been feared, recent international reports suggest the Atlantis' resort in Dubai might actually be on the property chopping block. Kerzner International Holdings was said to be seriously considering the sale of its 50 percent stake in that property.
It's an outcome an international hotel analyst, speaking earlier to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity, saw coming and was never overly concerned about the situation potentially sparking a sale of the Atlantis property in The Bahamas.
"I don't think they would sell it," the well-connected source said. "Their best bet is to extend it and give Kerzner time to recover.
"Occupancy and rates can pick up and in the Caribbean it's starting to pick up after two down years. So the value of Kerzner's assets will probably increase and they will be able to meet their debt services."
BMB Group, an investment firm that manages wealthy Middle East and Asian clients, sent a letter on October 11 to the founder of Kerzner International Sol Kerzner, offering to pay between $3.4 billion to $4 billion for the company, Guardian Business reported last year. The company received the letter, but made it clear that Kerzner wasn't for sale.
In a statement from Kerzner International, the company said: "We received an unsolicited letter from BMB, but Kerzner is not for sale."
Like many other hotel properties around the world, Atlantis has been hit by the economic downturn and its effect on consumer spending on items like luxurious vacations in The Bahamas.
Local economists and analysts must be watching with a very wary eye the most recent jobs reports coming out of the United States.
Last week, the latest jobs numbers -- for the month of May -- were released. The news was worrisome. The U.S. economy added only 69,000 jobs for that month, compared to 77,000-plus in April and 143,000-plus in March.
America's recovery from now what is widely referred to as the 'Great Recession' is sputtering at best.
This is bad news for The Bahamas. Weak performance in the U.S. economy translates into weak performance in The Bahamas' major economic pillar -- tourism.
The close inter-relationship between the U.S. and Bahamian economies is nothing new and the impact of any movement in U.S. labor markets is almost instantly transmitted to our tourist industry.
American visitors to The Bahamas tend to travel more frequently when they are confident about their future well being and when they have surplus funds or more disposable income at their command.
As the U.S. economy slowly emerges from the devastating global recession, any news regarding a slow down in job growth in the U.S. not only shakes the confidence of the U.S. consumer, it could also lead to immediate adjustments in household budgets resulting in cut-backs in unnecessary discretionary spending, or more precisely, tourist travel to places such as The Bahamas.
For the past three years or more the Ministry of Tourism together with local tourists associations have been desperately trying to increase visitor numbers to The Bahamas via various promotion and advertising strategies including subsidizing "companion-free" flights to The Bahamas. More recently, the mega-resort Atlantis, once known for its robust occupancy, has severely slashed its rates to attract badly-needed visitors.
While there has been some success, we are not out of the woods yet and any disturbances in the U.S. labor markets which would dampen or restrain our efforts is, to say the least, most unwelcomed.
Some analysts predict that the economic turmoil in Europe could push the U.S. and most of the rest of the world into another big recession. If that is the case, Bahamians should brace themselves for the fact that these tough economic times are not going anywhere soon. And act accordingly.
In the face of the dismal jobs reports, we are dealing with our own set of economic challenges. The country's deficit for the 2011/2012 fiscal year rose to a record $570 million -- an increase of $256 million or 82 percent more than the $314 million that was originally anticipated. The government now has to borrow $504 million to cover this deficit. This means that the national debt will increase to $4.8 billion by the end of the next fiscal year. And a projected $5.4 billion by 2014.
These continue to be extraordinary economic times that require bold, creative and extraordinary measures from policy makers.
We are hopeful, for our collective sakes, that the recent downturn in the U.S. job numbers are an aberration and not the beginning of a long negative trend which could render further harm to our increasingly fragile economy.
Little has excited stronger opinions and emotions in recent times than the debate as to whether or not to decriminalize the numbers business. The arguments have grown stronger with the appearance of the "web shops", which have sprung up in New Providence.
Prohibition of numbers gaming in The Bahamas
In The Bahamas prohibition of the numbers business has been full of contradictions and irony. Bahamians have been playing numbers and running numbers businesses illegally for years. There have been police raids on such activities and prosecutions to no avail.
At the same time, it should be noted that Bahamians play games of chance at the annual carnival in Oakes Field without hindrance for 45 days each year.
The worst of it is that the money they spend goes out of the country to benefit another country.
Furthermore, unreasoning emotionalism has sometimes gone as far as calling for a ban on raffles, which are also games of chance, but happen to be one of the most productive means of funding the work of non-governmental, charitable institutions from which Bahamians have derived great benefit.
This country would be sorely bereft if such organizations ceased to exist.
The government purse cannot satisfy all the cultural and social needs that the benefaction of private sector individuals and corporate groups, such as the new web shops, supply generously.
Commentary and calls for action, as regards decriminalization of the numbers business, have run the gamut from letters to the editors of the local dailies strongly supporting or condemning the regularization of this form of gaming to even stronger evangelical fervor for complete prohibition of such enterprises. In its election platform, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which won the government in the May 7 general election, promised to put the issue to rest through a popular referendum. This commitment has since been reaffirmed. It is obviously time for a more logical look at pros and cons of the debate.
The case for decriminalization of the numbers business
Support for decriminalizing local gaming, particularly as relates to the operations of duly licensed web shops rests on the following main points. Such legislation would:
1. Assist in bringing about full legitimacy to businesses that are already duly licensed, tax compliant and in full compliance with all labor laws;
2. Create new revenue streams for the Public Treasury in tough economic times through the taxation of the profits of web shops.
The added income, which would run in the millions, would allow the government to build more hospitals and schools and operate more social programs benefiting all Bahamians;
3. Bring order and stability to the entire web café concept ensuring that only duly licensed and authorized vendors are able to operate a "legitimate" café or satellite locations abiding by all the rules and regulations, which this entails (sales, payouts, etc.).
Web shops are creating jobs, adding to the bottom line of various suppliers of goods and services, making large charitable donations and paying such taxes as current legislation demands
The supporters of legitimizing the numbers business as represented by the web shops argue that:
o Web shops are not the old numbers operations with runners and their customers making shady deals on the corners of rundown neighborhoods, with both sides at risk to cheating, robbery and police arrest. Rather, they are technologically sophisticated businesses providing safe surroundings, entertainment and accountability to the extent that the provisions of current legislation permit them to.
o Web shops supply various forms of entertainment that Bahamians choose for themselves.
o Web shops contribute to this country's economic health as businesses.
Providing easily verifiable information, proponents of the move for a referendum
o The various web shop groups together employ 3,000-plus Bahamians. They have also absorbed a good many persons who were made redundant when Atlantis downsized in recent times.
o They stimulate small business growth and further employment in purchasing courier, construction, repair and maintenance services and many others.
o They pay National Insurance contributions to the tune of $4 million-plus annually.
o Other payouts include over $10 million for electricity and cable services and paper.
The most serious aspect of the failure to decriminalize the numbers business
The law in action does not distinguish between the operators of numbers establishments and their customers and employees; when the police have made their periodic raids all have suffered the embarrassment of being hauled away like criminals. The implications are very serious:
1. In the trying conditions brought on by the lingering recession, Bahamians are glad to have the jobs that the growth of web shops has created. Is it right to shame these hardworking and honest Bahamians, deprive them of the dignity of work and perhaps drive them to less salubrious situations where they might indeed engage in dangerous and real criminal activity?
2. Consider the case of the web shop customers. The Bahamas government obviously does not hold games of chance to be intrinsically wrong, as it has legitimized casino gaming and raffles. Where then is the justification for excluding Bahamians from playing numbers, if they so choose? Can it be an attempt to deprive them of an aspect of their civil rights? Probably not in intent, but certainly in action.
How sound are the arguments against the decriminalization?
The lobby against gaming tends to claim that formal gaming businesses attract crime, take trade from small businesses and victimize the poor who are likely to make up the greatest percentage of gamers.
Gaming is also blamed for addiction and the breakup of families. Religious conservatives agree with these points and add that gaming violates the biblical standard of stewardship and brings about a decline in the work ethic.
The trouble with the anti-gaming argument lies in assigning blame for complex social issues such as crime, addiction and family dysfunction to a single source - playing numbers. This fallacy is compounded when prohibition of the numbers business is promoted as a solution and, sometimes, the only solution to this range of social ills.
Does banning/prohibition work? An example from history.
The biggest question is: Does prohibition work? History gives many peerless examples to the contrary.
The anti-liquor lobby had long held banning alcohol as the solution to the social and economic consequences of the consumption of strong drink.
Their cause in the United States succeeded when in 1919 the U.S. Government passed the Volstead Act, which prohibited the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages. It is said that alcohol consumption did decline to some extent, but the period between the passage of the act and 1933 when the act was repealed, known as "Prohibition", gave rise to gangs of vicious bootleggers and other criminals, who often enjoyed the complicity of ordinary citizens. Chicago's notorious Al Capone and his ilk fed a reign of terror such as the United States had not known before.
It is obvious that prohibition can drive issues underground and create problems even greater than those it sought to get rid of.
The trouble with trying to legislate moral choices is that it obscures the deeper issues contributing to social and economic problems, thereby delaying or preventing the identification of causes and the search for more solid and lasting solutions.
Establishing a more workable and sustainable approach
Would it not be better to look into the matter logically, set up rules and regulations and establish a solid framework for compliance and monitoring as regards the operation of web shops?
Democracy in action
Prime Minister Perry Christie and his government appear to be taking the democratic route by allowing the web shop operators a hearing and by proposing to put the matter to the Bahamian people through a referendum.
It is a strategy that has already been criticized by opponents of legitimizing local gaming, but it is certainly to be congratulated as democracy in action.
Bahamians have long signalled their choice in the matter of playing numbers for whatever reason.
If they can be entrusted to vote for governments, would it be right to deprive them of the right to choose their entertainment when it does not impinge on the rights of others?
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) not only teaches students about the environment, but also provides them with opportunities to develop skills that will assist them with future career choices as well as see amazing sights of the environment, including the underwater environment. Recently 15 students from the BNT's Navigators program from St. John's High School, Nassau Christian Academy and Central Andros High School successfully completed their PADI SCUBA Open Water Diver course earlier this month.
The Navigators program is the third level of Discovery Club. This level is partially sponsored by the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation and is more research-based, targeting young people in high school and college. Activities at this level are designed to equip the participants with knowledge and skills that will prepare them for college-level studies in environmental science or eco-tourism-based activities.
"Participants in the Navigators program are embracing an awesome opportunity that will not only assist them in their biology and social studies courses, but give them marketable skills to acquire jobs," said Portia Sweeting, BNT education director. "We are grateful to our partner, the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, for their continued support of the Navigator program."
The recent SCUBA certification was sponsored by Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas, Forfar Field Station and Kamalame Cay resort. Kamalame Cay resort owner Brian Hew offered the full use of his facilities, equipment and dive instructors to train the students. Swimming, snorkeling and SCUBA diving are all necessary skills required for a career in marine science, and the BNT is hopeful that, even if the students decide on alternative careers, they can use these skills to assist the BNT in the monitoring of marine parks.
"The Bahamas National Trust, through its Discovery Club program, is playing a critical role in developing the next generation of marine scientists in The Bahamas" said Debra Erickson, executive director of the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation. "Through their training, even those students who don't enter the field of science will become important community advocates for our ocean."
The Navigators program is just one of the many ways that the trust is conserving and protecting the natural resources of The Bahamas, through stewardship and education for present and future generations throughout the country. To learn more about the Navigators program, visit the BNT's website or Facebook page and become a member by supporting the trust.
This is the second part of my response to a recent column by Philip Galanis in which he describes the PLP as "The Bahamas' first and some would argue only nationalist party", and proceeds to list some "accomplishments" of the PLP.
Efforts at making propaganda fact Galanis lifts a list of accomplishments from some PLP election propaganda sheet which even the PLP leadership must not believe and he attributes them to the Perry Christie government between 2002 and 2007. Only a blind sycophant could give any credence to the list.
Galanis' rose-tinted glasses do not admit failure by his political party. He claims that the first Christie government attracted some $17 billion in foreign direct investment, some $2.5 billion of which became tangible or real. Attracting investment that is not real is a most peculiar concept. It is more peculiar, in fact, than Galanis' failure to accept that the five-phased development of Atlantis was approved by the FNM in its first term in office and is an FNM accomplishment.
Galanis claims Baha Mar as a Christie government accomplishment without acknowledging that the agreement signed by Christie's government (with U.S. partners and financiers) faltered and was rendered void, and that a new agreement (with Chinese partners and financiers) had to be negotiated by the FNM government after 2007.
Galanis claims that the Christie government created 22,000 jobs between 2002 and 2007, about half the number created by the previous FNM government. He forgot to say that the jobs created during the PLP's term in office were overwhelmingly created on projects left in train by the FNM - at Atlantis, in Abaco and in Exuma.
Indeed, in Exuma, it was just the ribbon-cutting that was left for the PLP to do at the Four Seasons. When that operation faltered in 2006 it was left to the FNM returning to office in 2007 to find a new hotel owner and operator in Sandals. If Galanis can find an anchor project undertaken in Rum Cay or in Eleuthera during Christie's first term in office he should advise Bahamians where they might find them.
Galanis is silent on Grand Bahama where the FNM attracted Hutchison Whampoa to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of the Transshipment Port, in redeveloping the Grand Bahama International Airport, and in the construction of the Our Lucaya Hotel.
Also on the FNM's watch mega ship care and repair was developed in Grand Bahama, the Pelican Bay resort was constructed and new investment and technology was introduced into the island's oil storage and transshipment facilities. Christie's legacy in Grand Bahama continues to be the closure of the Royal Oasis Hotel following the 2005 hurricane, a resort he was proud to open with the police band in tow, weeks after coming to office for the first time in 2002.
As Galanis seeks to give credit for development in The Bahamas he would do better to glance through the pages of the 40th Anniversary of Independence book assembled by Jones Publications. The book records, among other things, the infrastructural developments of the past 40 years of independence. The pictorial representation is incomplete but still if one were to stamp PLP or FNM on the lasting permanent improvements in our infrastructure they would overwhelmingly be stamped FNM.
Nationalists who promote the wellbeing and glory of one's own fundamental values In three non-consecutive terms in office the FNM shaped the infrastructural landscape of our country: the new town centers in South Beach, Carmichael Road and Elizabeth Estates; the new government ministry complexes - education, health, customs headquarters, new courts in New Providence.
Then there are the Judicial Complex, Police Headquarters, and new C. A. Smith government administrative complex in Grand Bahama.
The new taxi call-up system at Prince George Dock and the hair-braiders' pavilion also at the Prince George Wharf, the National Art Gallery and the Junkanoo Expo are all FNM accomplishments as are the extension and or upgrade of electricity, telephone and water services throughout the Family Islands, new community health clinics on eight Family Islands including Grand Bahama, Bimini, Abaco, Spanish Wells, Harbour Island and San Salvador and another in South Beach, New Providence; new schools, primary and secondary, in New Providence and also in Grand Bahama, Abaco, and Long Island, and expansion of other existing schools around the country. A new airport terminal building and runway were constructed at San Salvador and the airport at Rock Sound, Eleuthera was acquired, the runway resurfaced and a new terminal building constructed.
A new international sea port, the new airport terminal building in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, the new government administration complex and the new community hospital nearing completion in central Abaco were all FNM accomplishments. And the FNM dredged and deepened Nassau Harbour (over the objections of the PLP), built the new Nassau straw market, constructed new magistrates courts and acquired and began restoration of a new judicial complex in Nassau; commenced the three-phased redevelopment of LPIA opening the new U.S. Departure terminal and leaving the International Arrival Terminal to be opened weeks following the 2012 general election.
The new library and communications center at COB was realized by the FNM as were the new national stadium, the 20-corridor-plus New Providence roads and utility upgrade project and the new four-lane Airport Gateway Project. The new adolescent and child care facility at Sandilands Hospital, the new emergency and operating theater wing at Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama; the new Critical Care Block now under construction at Princess Margaret Hospital, and new community hospitals under construction in Exuma are all FNM accomplishments. The list is unending.
Social conscience in government
Socially the FNM has been responsible for fulfilling the PLP's unfulfilled promise in virtually every sector of Bahamian life.
Since 1992 the FNM freed the airwaves and licensed private radio broadcasts, made access to cable television possible and introduced live T.V. coverage of meetings of Parliament from gavel to gavel. The FNM introduced elected local government in its second term in office - a promise first made by the PLP in the 1950s while in opposition and reiterated again in 1968 as government but never brought to fruition.
The FNM privatized BTC and liberalized the communications sector.
The FNM also increased old age pensions, established a resident Court of Appeal and appointed Bahamians as justices in that court for the first time. They established the Industrial Tribunal, introduced minimum wage, introduced sick leave and enhanced maternity leave benefits, established minimum standards and conditions of employment, reduced the work week from 48 to 40 hours, increased the school leaving age from 14 to 16, removed discrimination from our inheritance laws and provided in law that all children, regardless of the marital status of their parents, have two parents. And the FNM created the Eugene Dupuch Law School where Galanis' wife is proud to serve as principal.
The FNM also established the UWI Medical School faculty in The Bahamas, introduced unemployment benefits, introduced a prescription drug benefit and enacted a Freedom of Information Act. It is only left for the PLP to sign the appointed day notice to bring the act into force.
The FNM appointed the first Bahamian directors of Legal Affairs and of Public Works since independence, appointed the first women to the Bahamas Cabinet since independence, Doris Johnson having been dismissed prior to 1973. The FNM was also responsible for the appointment of the first female chief justice, the first female president of the Court of Appeal, the first female speaker of the House of Assembly, and since independence, the first female president of the Senate. In its second term in office the FNM caused 50 percent of the Senate to be comprised of women.
Galanis seems to believe that the PLP has a legacy in public housing. In reality the Pindling PLP government struggled to complete housing developments under development by the UBP government in Yellow Elder and Big Pond.
It was not until 1982 and the appointment of a young Hubert Ingraham to Cabinet that the PLP undertook new government housing projects - at Elizabeth Estates, Flamingo Gardens, Nassau Village and Palm Tree Estates in New Providence, and housing estates were undertaken in Freeport and in Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama and in Cooper's Town, Abaco. Ingraham was dismissed from Cabinet two years later and the new government housing initiative stalled. It did not resume until after the FNM's 1992 election victory after which new housing projects were undertaken at Millennium, Jubilee, and Emerald Gardens. The pace was improved under the first Christie-led government but the overall poor standard of construction of that government's housing program dramatically curtailed its benefits.
Unfinished agendas Yes, Galanis, there is an unfinished agenda for development in our country, but it is the FNM that has such an agenda. It is an agenda of the 'good' who, having been too young to be a part of the first revolution and having been forced out of the ruling party, became intent on their watch after 1992 on realizing the new long-awaited second revolution which they sought to achieve through improved social policies, enhanced economic opportunities, broadened Bahamian ownership in the economy and open, transparent and accountable government. The agenda of the PLP and in particular of this Christie led-PLP government is an unfinished agenda of obtaining privileges and benefits for a select few. It is an unfinished agenda that suggests that holding up those heroes of the first revolution imperfect - though they be - is sufficient. That is why Perry Christie could travel to Washington D.C., and talk about social justice on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech but remain silent on the shameful mismanagement of an investigation into alleged abuse in a Bahamas government detention center at home.
Yes, Galanis, the PLP is in dire need of new causes to champion. They can begin by recognizing the right of the opposition to a voice in Parliament. They can begin by championing open, honest accountability and transparent government.
They can begin by committing themselves to fiscal restraint, abandoning wasteful expenditure on useless or unnecessary expensive foreign travel, and on the granting of government contracts to politically-connected but unqualified contractors.
They can begin to act to create real jobs. They can begin by stopping the politicization of crime. They can begin by acting so as to bring honor to our name internationally.
Finally, in the spirit of championing causes and promoting transparency, Galanis might begin by telling the Bahamian people why he was denied his party's nomination to return to the House of Assembly and why, following so promising a career start, he elected to leave the engagement of the renowned accounting firm which had trained and groomed him for leadership.
The Atlantis ownership transfer deal is off.
Brookfield Asset Management has cancelled its offer to exchange approximately $175 million of debt for ownership of Kerzner International's Bahamian and Mexican properties, throwing into limbo Atlantis and Ocean Club, as well as thousands of jobs at those Paradise Island properties.
This significant development comes days after a group of Kerzner creditors more senior to Brookfield took legal action against Brookfield, alleging that the Canadian conglomerate had negotiated a "sweetheart deal" that would negatively impact the interests of other lenders.
Under that deal, Kerzner would have entered a four-year agreement to manage Atlantis and a 15-year agreement to manage Ocean Club.
The arrangements associated with the takeover of Kerzner International's Paradise Island properties also called for the new owners to refinance Kerzner's $2.1 billion loan within the next two years.
But the legal action led to Brookfield's pull-out.
Andrew Wills, senior vice president of communications and media at Brookfield, said the Canadian firm decided to walk away after a U.S. judge issued a temporary restraining order on the transaction.
The decision by Brookfield to pull out of the deal has also put an end to the lawsuit filed by the group of creditors in a Delaware court.
"We obviously didn't agree with the proposed transaction (between Kerzner and Brookfield) and felt strongly enough that we initiated the lawsuit and are gratified by the conclusion that [the judge] reached," said Robert Stark, attorney for the creditors who sued Brookfield.
Stark told The Nassau Guardian the judge had set a trial for the end of the month to consider the lenders' request for an injunction pending a full trial on the merits of the case.
"After [the judge issued] the temporary restraining order, the defendants (Brookfield) determined that they weren't going to contest it any longer," he said.
Asked what the creditors' next move will be, Stark said he preferred not to comment on that at this time.
They had accused Brookfield of negotiating a transaction principally for its own benefit, without regard to the material risk to which it would expose other lenders, risks not contemplated by the original loan agreements.
Brookfield is also keeping quiet on what it will do next in this matter.
These latest developments come one month and a half after Kerzner International Chairman Sir Sol Kerzner and Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham separately announced the proposed ownership transfer transaction.
In a letter published in Thursday's paper, a writer opines that sooner or later The Bahamas will be "caught up in something" because the interests of China and the United States will eventually clash and at that time we will have an epiphany. He also states that we will have a choice to make at that time. I beg to differ.
We have already made a choice. We have chosen to play the two superpowers against each other in the name of 'progress' and jobs. I agree that we will have an epiphany, but it will be about how to survive in this drama that we are creating for ourselves. The politicians who are making the choices seem to be clueless about our situation; and this cluelessness is inclusive of those in the FNM, PLP, and the DNA.
The only persons who are going to survive this event are those who own something tangible and have not allowed themselves to be sold the lie that all we have to do as Bahamians is "believe in ourselves", "vote for the change you want to see", etc., etc., etc. Realistically, there is nothing wrong in belief or change, but we have made the awful mistake of having persons with very questionable agendas redefining what belief or change means every five years; and the tools of fear and distrust are used to sell these subjective definitions.
We have to blame ourselves, we have not held ourselves or the persons who lead us as accountable as we should; and what is strange to me is that in spite of all that is going on, this nation is on a precarious 'even keel' because the present prime minister has chosen to hold himself accountable. Even this reality seems to be problematic as we look at what those who would like to replace him and his party are saying.
Is it enough to want to change a government because your pay increase did not come on time? Forty years into it, it is going to take more than words or subjectively entitled utterances of what it means to be Bahamian to guide us into 'this' promised land, because the ground we are now treading bears no resemblance to the one that we were promised. Even the group that brought us into this 'land' more than 40 years ago now find itself in a political wilderness, looking to Madison Avenue and international public relations firms for a definition of who they are or how they should present themselves.
I will not be able to close this letter without comment on the Atlantis issue. Should we entertain comments from agenda driven persons who, though qualified, choose to paint a picture that brings attention to their personal political biases? Atlantis is having 'internal problems', but should those problems be expressed in such a way that makes persons planning to visit this nation think twice about their decision? We must concede that the Dubai foray was ill-advised. Two billion is a lot of money but it is not enough in that market and the head of Arawak Homes could have used his time in the spotlight to give the Bahamian public an objective view. He chose to let his politics frame his presentation.
Politicians and myself do not get along, but whosever is going to speak for me is going to be held to a standard that has nothing with 'subjectivity', and even though we are going to have some pain when hard decisions are made, it is only the objective exercises and views that get us through, regardless of the onslaught of perceptions we are being bombarded with by all and sundry.
Right now, especially for the under 60 crowd, it is what it is and there is no time to be playing games or going down a road that refuses to put things in perspective. It is 2012 and the world is coming to see what it is we are doing on the 21x7-plus. Let us fight in such a way that makes us stronger and better, 'cause after the smoke clears in May 2012 there will still be a lot of work to be done. We may get discouraged even when we do good, but this is how we are going to get through.
- Edward Hutcheson