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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 new minister of tourism says that the new administration is "firmly committed" to boosting airlift into the country and addressing the major increase in arrivals needed to sustain both Atlantis and Baha Mar.
Obie Wilchcombe, shortly after his swearing in into Cabinet, called airlift an "immediate concern". While cruise arrivals remain strong, improving the number of tourists arriving by air is considered of paramount importance to both the public and private sector. Wilchcombe said the issue of air arrivals has never been properly corrected since the financial downturn.
"We have to ensure that the numbers are back to where they used to be," he said.
"When Baha Mar opens in 2014, we want to have airlift at its capacity. Our mind-set is we want to get to the point where we don't have enough hotel rooms to accommodate the visitors, and we are firmly committed to that."
According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the Bahamas received approximately 1.34 million tourists last year - representing over a 2 percent decline compared to 2010. Don Robinson. the president of Baha Mar, recently told Guardian Business that airlift needs to increase by 30 percent - or 400,000 - by the time the $2.6 billion mega resort opens at the end of 2014.
But air arrivals are crucial to the economy in a broader sense, Wilchcombe added. Long-stay visitors have the luxury of staying in the country for a longer period compared to a cruise passenger. A longer stay translates into more business for hotels and other businesses that directly and indirectly benefit from tourist spend.
Wilchcombe said part of the strategy will be a continued focus on emerging markets.
"We will begin the process immediately, going after new routes and new destinations to fly into The Bahamas," he said. "We have a good presence in North America, but we want to integrate the South American and Asian markets because we feel like those regions have potential to work here."
A non-traditional route that has already proven lucrative is Copa Airlines. The direct flight to Panama, flying several times a week, has become a valuable asset to business travelers and visitors.
One of the direct benefits of improving airlift will be additional jobs.
"It's extremely important considering the high level of unemployment right now [with] the record number of unemployment particularly in Grand Bahama, so immediately we have to cause for more opportunities to be had," he said. "People want to work, but they're not going to be able to work unless we create the job opportunities for them."
He continued, "Tourism has a way of creating a lot of linkages and a lot of other jobs are created because of the tourism industry. So our job is to create that level of opportunity by getting the tourism numbers to a level that we know will cause a spillover and create the opportunities we desire."
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.
Forty-eight days after the
Progressive Liberal Party expressed serious concerns about the FNM
government's approval of the Atlantis deal, that deal has fallen apart,
leaving more than 7,000 Bahamians even more anxious about the security
of their jobs.
The Prime Minister and the FNM government have shown extraordinary
incompetence when it comes to dealing with our nation's largest private
employer. Working in secret behind closed doors, they approved a
takeover by a junior creditor without first securing support from more
senior creditors, who went on to pull the deal under, leaving the future
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.
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.
A leading investment banker yesterday warned that impending tax measures threaten to wipe up to 20 percent off the value of equity investors' portfolios in coming years, adding that investors have yet to respond to the significant possibility of a downturn in the market.
In an interview with Guardian Business on the likely impact on investors of the three percent business license fee on banks, the additional one percent business license fee on other businesses, and the introduction of value-added tax (VAT), Michael Anderson, Royal Fidelity Merchant Bank and Trust's president, said that the real question is whether Baha Mar's launch can offset the "drag" on earnings of the new taxes in an already-troubled economic environment.
Referring specifically to the impact of the three percent business license fee assessed on banks' revenue, which will come into effect on January 1, 2014, Anderson said: "Banks are the largest players in the [equities] market in terms of capitalization, except for Commonwealth Brewery.
"There's a possible downside to stock prices associated with this [higher taxation] that no one is taking account of right now."
He suggested that banks will see their bottom line impacted by 15 to 20 percent "for a long time", possibly ranging up to five years, until they can pass on certain costs to consumers.
Earlier this year Anderson projected a "great year" for investors, with forecasts that the equities market would close the year up 10 percent.
He commented that the economy should grow much more in 2014 and 2015 than it has this year.
In the latest release from BISX on Thursday, its positive movement appeared to be continuing, as the All-Share Index was shown to have risen by 4.49 percent in the first six months of the year, indicating that the share prices of BISX-listed stocks have been slowly appreciating.
However, Anderson's most recent assessment was much more circumspect.
Highlighting the positive, the Royal Fidelity president said Baha Mar remains a bright spot on the horizon, which should benefit the economy both in terms of its direct and indirect employment effects, and through the attraction of additional tourists to spend money in the economy.
Baha Mar's hiring, which has begun and will go into 2014 in preparation for its December 2014 opening, should elicit significant benefits for the overall economy and specifically going into the second quarter of 2014, suggested Anderson, adding that if roughly 5,000 are hired at an average salary of $30,000 this would equate to $150 million in salaries.
But the problem is that it may be the only bright spot, and may not be enough to offset the effect of the increased taxes on listed companies' earnings.
"There's two good pieces and one happens next year and one happens the year after (2015). There'll be a multiplier effect from the employment side and one from the tourism side.
"Even if Baha Mar is only 50 percent full, that's still over 1,000 rooms. Five thousand more people will have jobs and can pay money to others.
"Without Baha Mar coming to the rescue, I'm not sure what would happen. The question is what's the offsetting factor. Businesses who will get whacked, do they see their businesses grow to offset that by virtue of what's happening at Baha Mar? There'll be some effect, but how much?"
Anderson noted with Baha Mar boosting employment, banks will see more workers paying off loans in arrears, and coming to them for new debt.
"[BISX-listed] Commonwealth Bank lends to a lot of hotel workers. When Atlantis let go employees, they were badly hurt, so when some of them get re-employed at Baha Mar, that will be a new debt pool for [Commonwealth Bank].
"The additional employment will also help them start paying off loans. So the banks will see some impact."
The RoyalFidelity head noted that in the case of the business license fee, this is a new cost for banks. When added to the previous asset-based fee paid, Anderson noted Banks will see a 7.5 percent increase in their expenses, all else remaining equal.
Other listed companies, including FOCOL and AML operate in an environment of price controls and therefore will continue to have limited profit margins - around three to four percent of revenue - while being taxed on revenue.
Anderson estimated that the total impact on the bottom line of these companies of VAT and the increased business license fee - rising from 0.75 percent to 1.75 percent - would be around 25 percent of income.
While companies will be able to "recover" some of the VAT that they pay onto the Government via the charging of VAT to consumers, Anderson projected that companies will "not always get all of it back" via credits, and certainly many in the service sector would see a reduction in income as a result.
"One can assume that the new business license fee will have a fairly large impact across the board," he added.
With respect to VAT, if given VAT-exempt status as planned, banks will not be eligible to charge VAT, but will pay VAT on their inputs.
"A lot of these businesses who are eligible will be able to get some of that VAT back from customers, but banks aren't allowed to recover it on the sales side."
He projected that it will be roughly "three to five years" before banks are able to pass on costs to the point they will begin to see their bottom lines recover.
"If we are taking a 20 percent hit to our bottom line, that's a 20 percent hit to our earnings per share, so if you are valuing your business based on earnings per share your bank stock will drop by 20 percent.
"The only gap is how long you can take before you can move your fees up. My sense is that it is a three to five year transition period before fees can be moved up. So for a long time, banks are going to be fairly impacted."
Anderson said the impact on equities will not be the same across the board, but investors should expect to start having to factor new costs into their outlook.
"As shares ought to be really priced on forecast earnings over a period of the next three to five years, peoples' assessment as to whether this is a good time to buy or sell will be driven by their assessment of the Baha Mar effect and the expectation as to how fast companies can pass on these costs.
"I remain bullish on the Bahamian economy and share prices over the medium term and investors need to avoid reacting to the short term pain and take a longer term view," he stated.
Josette "DJ Safire" Christie has deejayed some of the biggest events Atlantis has offered, and now she's taking her show on the road, and deejaying at what will be her biggest gig to date -- the Food Network Magazine's Concert at Ravinia in Chicago.
Christie will play two gigs at one of the hottest events of the summer at which the likes of seven-time Grammy-winning recording artist John Mayer and Phillip Phillips, Twin Forks and Raul Midon will take to the stage during a day filled with unique food and music experiences.
Christie will spin tunes at two events -- "Hot Hot Hot", which is sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, and "I Want Candy" at the Saturday, September 20 event in Chicago.
During the "Hot Hot Hot" segment, Christie will play a mixture of Bahamian and pop music, with emphasis placed on the Bahamian music, at the reception-style event. The heat will be turned up by Bahamian Chef Simeon Hall Jr., along with a number of other chefs who will challenge the taste buds of concert patrons with varying levels of heat injected into their fiery frissons.
On the sweeter side of things, Christie will also play at the "I Want Candy Dessert Party" set to the sounds of the 80s. The confectioner's dreamscape hosted by Food Network Star Anne Burrell will feature nine pastry chefs and showcase recipes from Food Network Magazine's new cookbook, "Sweet!."
Christie will play for two hours at each event.
"I'm looking forward to both events, which I think will be a lot of fun," said Christie from her home base on Harbour Island. She was recommended for the Food Network event by an influential person in the entertainment industry (as she's not a name-dropper and she keeps her client list confidential she preferred not to say who). The deejay, who has entertained at a number of big events at Atlantis, said the Food Network Concert in Ravinia will be her biggest gig to date.
"It's an amazing experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I feel blessed to have been chosen to do this and I'm going to go to have a lot of fun," said Christie.
For the biggest event of her deejaying career to date, she's preparing the same way she prepares for all of her events, and it entails lots of research and song downloads to create play lists with the client in mind, which she says she does for the smallest wedding to an event like the Food Network Concert.
"For something like this it's days and weeks of preparation. My play list alone for the 'Hot Hot Hot' event I've got over 700 songs on a play list, and I've got to listen to every song for at least a minute, so that's 700 minutes or 11 hours just doing that," she said. Christie also practices 12 hours daily -- sessions that she said are important for any deejay.
Christie rocketed onto the scene as DJ Safire in 2009, but has only been a deejay full time since 2011, after giving up her management job at Aura nightclub at Atlantis.
She did not just recently stumble upon the art form. Music has always been a love for Christie. She became enthralled with music back in the 80s and would take advantage of the opportunity to spin unofficially for a friend during his gigs at a popular club at the time, for a time before putting it aside and forgetting about it for life -- you know ... marriage and all that other stuff.
As the manager at Aura, which she managed for five years, she was responsible for hiring most of the talent and was insistent that resident local deejays were spinning as well as foreign talent.
Her love for music roared to the surface again. She became fascinated with seeing the effect the deejay's music had on the crowd. She wanted to do it too.
"I saw what some of them were doing and thought I could probably do that too, because the repertoire in their libraries were the same stuff I had," she said. "And I'm just in love with music, and in love with making people happy, and music is one of the key ways to make people happy, and I could see the effect these deejays have on the crowd, and I just wanted to do that."
Christie enlisted DJ Kido to teach her the fundamentals of deejaying and she taught herself the rest.
Since then she has developed quite a following in only a few years in the booth, has been accepted into the coveted ranks of Atlantis' AOS (Ambassadors of Sound) and is one of only a handful of female deejays in The Bahamas.
Her signature style is eclectic, a seamless mixing of genres crossing decades and spinning treasured classics and hot new hits. She challenges the idea of music by incorporating clever and quirky mixes into her performance. Her ultimate goal is to conjure nostalgia and touch the soul of the people who hear her music.
As she prepares for the biggest event of her still young career, Christie said her plan is to enjoy it all and to entertain the masses while she feeds her soul with her love of music.
"I didn't start deejaying to be famous -- that's not why I do what I do. I love what I do, but of course every deejay would love to play a big music festival, which I'm doing now," she said. Other than that, she would love the opportunity to spin at an Electric Dance Music (EDM) concert.
Right now, Christie said she enjoys every single gig she plays, from a child's birthday party to a nightclub.
"Once I am doing what I love and I see people responding to what I do, that's pretty much it for me," she said.
Christie, who does everything from weddings, parties and special events, said she would encourage any young person that has the desire to deejay to follow their passion and to work hard and take it seriously. She said any great deejay's advice to the next generation of spin masters would be to practice all the time. She said it's not easy, as most of the best deejays do not have day jobs and give deejaying 100 percent.
"If you are going to become great, you have to put in the time, work and sacrifice. There are no shortcuts and sync buttons for real deejays. In this field you never stop learning. I left a very lucrative career to follow my passion," said Christie of the competitive business that she said can be extremely difficult, but also rewarding.
For those females who want to enter the industry, she said they should be aware that they will face many obstacles that their male counterparts don't face, and they will be put under much more scrutiny. Christie said females will always have to prove themselves and she still goes on gigs where people are amazed that she deejays and mixes music -- which she finds amusing.
"I always ask them: Are there not female doctors, lawyers, mechanics, pilots and judges? Why does a female deejay baffle you so?," she said.
But from her unique perspective she said the female deejays bring a different element to the field as they are more emotional and intuitive and as a result, when trained can perhaps read a crowd better than their counterparts.
"We lack the ego that some male deejays exhibit and we never have to worry about looking 'soft'. Also we know what women want to hear because these are the same songs we identify with which is a bonus for a venue looking to attract a female crowd -- plus we can be a little more 'easy on the eyes' than the guys," she said.
In The Bahamas, female deejays like DJ Safire and DJ Baby D are still a novelty, but internationally there are many women deejays that are getting top billing as performers and producers.
Christie said her goal is to eventually train and bring more female deejays to the forefront.
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.
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.