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The Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) would order an immediate strike if one employee's salary is adjusted next Wednesday, eliminating a sick pay benefit, BEWU President Stephano Greene warned yesterday.
Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Executive Chairman Leslie Miller said BEC has put people on alert to be brought in, in the event of a strike.
"I dare him to do so," Miller said. "See what the reaction will be and see what price he will pay.
"We are fully prepared for any eventuality. We have people in Florida on standby.
"We have people in Freeport on standby and within 24 hours lights will be restored.
"Anyone who goes on that type of strike will not return to BEC's yard, including him because he will be the perpetrator."
Miller added that Greene could either "get real, or get lost".
"We will cut you a check for two-thirds and NIB (National Insurance Board) will cut you a check for the rest," Miller said.
However, Greene said: "We are prepared to take immediate action against the corporation, because we are not prepared to sit back and allow the corporation to continue to violate our contract."
Employees have been able to receive 100 percent of their salaries from BEC for sick leave and claim one-third of their salary from NIB.
It is a practice Miller has called "double-dipping", but the union insists employees are being legally paid.
Around two dozen employees are currently on sick leave, according to the union.
In response to the threat of industrial action, Miller said the corporation would move swiftly to terminate those employees involved.
Some of the employees on sick leave are being treated for cancer and rely on the benefit to meet high medical expenses, according to Greene, who said removing it is an attack against those employees' welfare.
"It is difficult for us to accept that Leslie Miller, in my terms, wants to put those employees' lives at risk by decreasing their income at the time when they need it most," he said.
"What the public needs to realize, and what Leslie Miller needs to realize, is that when people are off sick their expenses increase.
"They have more medication to purchase. They have doctors' fees to pay.
"And that is why the government has allowed in the law for people to get full pay and the NIB benefits."
Greene said an employee in hospital on dialysis contacted him yesterday morning, and expressed concern about not being able to afford medication if the corporation follows through with the changes to sick pay.
When asked whether the corporation factored those employees into its decision, Miller said they will still receive their full salary, but "it is still going to be only one pay".
"I don't care what condition you are in," Miller said.
"You are entitled to one pay. What is this? What is it you all don't understand?
"Everyone in the country is supposed to receive one set of money. You can't get paid [additionally] for being sick. How simple is that?"
Both the BEWU and the managerial union at the corporation have filed trade disputes over the matter.
The National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas (NCTUB) has threatened mass industrial action over BEC's decision to amend the sick pay policy.
The BEWU met with the Department of Labour on Monday and expects to meet with Prime Minister Perry Christie before the end of the month, Greene said.
BEC spent $3 million on sick pay between September 2012 and September 2013, according to Miller.
He added that BEC spent in excess of $3 million on sick pay in the previous year.
The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has launched an internal investigation into the cause of a nationwide system outage that disrupted services to more than 300,000 mobile, landline and broadband customers yesterday, company officials said.
For most of yesterday, BTC customers were unable to make mobile or landline calls, send text messages or access broadband Internet services provided by BTC.
A statement released by BTC said the system failure came after a power outage knocked out its network management center on Poinciana Drive at 8:10 a.m. yesterday.
BTC said the plant's back-up batteries started immediately but soon failed. BTC added that its generator did not function as designed after the blackout.
BTC CEO Geoff Houston apologized for the system failure, but said it had nothing to do with the company's ongoing network upgrades.
He added that the company was working to identify the source of yesterday's problem, invest in its network and ensure that an outage of this size never occurs again.
"This is not a good day for BTC," said Houston at a press conference at BTC's Network Management Center on Poinciana Drive yesterday.
"We are extremely apologetic for the impact that this has had on all of our customers. We are going to do whatever we can to make sure it never happens again."
He added that the system failure has hampered BTC's efforts to maintain customer confidence.
"I can say from my 25 plus years in this industry, an outage of this magnitude is the most significant I've ever experienced," Houston said.
"It is questioning a lot in terms of our network and what we need to do to fix a lot of our underlying issues. We do recognize that we're going to have a challenge to recover that faith to our customers, their confidence in us, but we are absolutely committed to continuing on this journey to modernize and fix up BTC."
BTC officials said they are considering ways to compensate customers for yesterday's outage.
"We're looking at all forms of compensation right now," Houston said. "We [had talked] of doing something special in consideration of what happened last week as part of our upgrade. This one has taken us by surprise. We're going to need a little bit of time to see what we do next."
Houston said it was too early to say what caused the system failure but added that the company is exploring whether it was sabotage, system malfunction or something else.
"Given that it is such a rare occurrence, we have to look at all options. . .We don't know whether it was a people issue, process issue or platform issue," Houston said.
BTC's system failure also hampered the ability of residents to get in contact with emergency services.
"We did have complaints from persons who said they could not get through to the emergency system of 919," Herbert Brown, managing director of the Public Hospitals Authority, told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
"However, the PMH [Princess Margaret Hospital] line was working and they were able to call PMH who communicated with us," he said.
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) restored power to the island by 9:20 a.m. However, most of BTC's services remained down until yesterday afternoon.
BTC said it restored its landline services by 4 p.m. yesterday and mobile services were being restored incrementally. The company's broadband services were restored yesterday morning, BTC said.
Many of the company's Enterprise subscribers were still out of service up to yesterday afternoon, but BTC officials said they expected to have the entire network operational by last night.
Bahamas Electrical Utility Managerial Union (BEUMU) President Ervin Dean threatened industrial action yesterday if the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) does not reverse its decision to fire two senior employees."We do intend to turn up the heat a little bit. Enough is enough," Dean said.
"You have people who mean the corporation well and when they perform well, we benefit as consumers of the corporation. But then you have one or two people who will just decide to disrupt their lives -- that's unacceptable to us."
According to Dean, two assistant general managers, Mark Hudson and Shavonn Cambridge, were called into a meeting and given termination letters on Monday.
"They were told that the board of directors had made a decision that they should be separated from the corporation," he said. "The letter simply said that their services were no longer needed."
He said that both employees, who were with the corporation for more than 20 years, were suspended for nearly two weeks last year over power outages in Abaco.
The employees took legal action over the suspension, according to Dean, who thinks this may have contributed to their termination.
"We just signed our industrial agreement on the 8th of this month," he said.
"So the ink hasn't even dried on the agreements yet and this pops up."
According to Dean, the union has also consulted the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and its president, Obie Ferguson, and has sought legal advice.
Dean said he has also spoken with members of the government to seek a reversal of the decision.
"If the board of directors and the general manager would fire two valuable assets of the corporation without valid reason or without just cause then they could do it to anybodyin BEC," he said.
BEC Chairman Michael Moss told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that the corporation does not comment on human resources matters.
Top business leaders are fed up with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and are renewing a call for privatization.
New Providence fell into an island-wide blackout last night for several hours after a ladder crashed into an overhead line on Prince Charles Drive. Two workers employed by a private company were rushed to hospital, according to BEC. The company said the relay protecting the central grid malfunctioned, causing a systemic failure to the Clifton Pier and Blue Hills power stations.
Dionisio D'Aguilar, a former board member at BEC, said the mishap "is the price of this economic development".
Nevertheless, he said the continued interruption in power is coming at a major cost to local businesses, and for BEC to function properly, privatization is imperative.
"The main reason why is it will stop the politicians from meddling in BEC's business," D'Aguilar said, who is also the chairman of AML Foods and the president of Superwash. "The FNM does it. The PLP does it. You cannot run a company with these people meddling in a company. They make a decision in the best interests of voters, because they need to get reelected. Every time you do that, it will get destroyed. Their decisions make no sense to the business."
Admitting that the concept seems more like a "pie in the sky" than ever, the top executive referred to recent initiatives, such as reconnection campaigns and long-term reprieves from paying bills, as simply a method of piling more debt on Bahamians.
If the service is run responsibility and reliability, the need for sweeping measures would not be necessary.
"If you got the politicians out of it, you would allow the company to operate to world standards. A state-controlled company has a mindset that is not productive and efficient," he told Guardian Business.
D'Aguilar said his businesses lose untold dollars each year from blackouts.
As an example, he said the BEC situation requires him to purchase and maintain nine generators at a cost of $500,000.
"Why do I need nine generators in order to ensure my power is reliable?" he asked. "It's a real cost, but given the current set up, it'll never get better. You have to factor it into your costs."
Aquapure, the largest and oldest water producer in the country, is also well versed with the trials of dealing with unreliable electricity.
Jeffrey Knowles, the operations director, estimates that the company spent "in excess of $30,000" on blown equipment from sudden outages. While BEC occasionally calls the manufacturer to let them know an outage is coming, this level of proactiveness is not the norm.
And as we come into the summer season, when BEC is traditionally challenged to handle the capacity, Aquapure is bracing for the worst.
"Last time it was absolutely crazy. For one period it was out on a daily basis last summer, which really had us in havoc. It takes 30 minutes to go from city power to our own power. Then, to go from our power to city, it takes another 30 minutes. So you see how many man hours we lose," Knowles told Guardian Business.
The manufacturer recently upgraded its generator for the summer season, he said. So while they are hoping for the best, Aquapure is also expecting the status quo.
Smaller manufacturers and businesses, such has Phillips Sailmakers & Awning Manufacturers, insist that warning that blackouts are coming would go an awful long way for businesses. Larry Phillips, the founder and proprietor, said he is tired of being at BEC's "mercy".
"The problem with BEC is that when you are in the dark, you are left in the dark about when the light might come back on and the machinery will come to life," he explained.
The head of a top public relations firm, Diane Phillips, said it's unfortunate that BEC has failed to keep pace with the technological advances we all depend on for business.
"It's like trying to run a Gulfstream jet on spent diesel. That plane can sit there looking pretty as a picture. You can whistle at its lines and boast about its performance," she said. "But while it is sitting there parked with nothing to run it, it might as well be an overused model. It sure can't get you anywhere if it can't spread its wings and fly."
She argued that BEC's handling of this latest mishap simply adds "fuel to the fire" for the privatization of BEC. With privatization, Phillips said, the government would ultimately derive beneficial revenue. But most importantly, the Bahamian public would finally benefit from a more consistent power supply at reasonable cost.
The managing director of Cavalier Construction says the $100 million Princess Margaret Hospital extension is 20 percent complete.
After months of sorting through a labyrinth of old underground utilities, the site is fully prepared for vertical construction, Richard Wilson said.
The massive project, started in November of last year, is now preparing to bring a crane on-site so structural steel work can begin. The construction of the skeletal structure of the new hospital wing involves more than 400 workers.
"We are moving ahead now. We have all the basement slab poured," Wilson explained.
"Our crane was held up for two weeks because of the Customs strike. Once it gets on-site we'll be ready to keep moving. In the next month, you'll see a major difference."
The Cavalier chief estimated that 20 percent of the original $75 million budget had been spent. Earlier this year, the Managing Director of the Public Hospitals Authority Herbert Brown told Guardian Business that sum has now been bumped up to $100 million for the purchase of more medical equipment.
When the critical care block is complete, there will be nine operating theaters, more than 500 beds, a pre-op and post-op area, 18 intensive care unit private rooms and a neonatal intensive care unit.
Wilson said the company is relieved to be finished with the "major challenges" encountered in the ground from existing utilities.
The project's lead consultant, Michael Diggis, said poor mapping of the grounds led to some unexpected surprises, requiring coordination with Bahamas Electricity Corporation and the Water and Sewerage Corporation.
Wilson described the job as "intense and complex", and easily one of the top three jobs that the leading contractor has ever tackled.
Other than the critical care block, Cavalier is now going after the coveted convention center project at Baha Mar. Top executives at the mega resort revealed to Guardian Business last week that major components of the 200,000-square-foot facility will indeed go to local contractors.
"We hope to work on the Baha Mar project," Wilson said.
"Nothing is guaranteed. We will have to bid for it and it'll have to go through the whole procedure. We have worked with them over the last year. We did the Bank of Nova Scotia job for them and we're doing a sewerage waste water plant."
The bank is part of the new commercial village, constructed as part of the Bay Street diversion and creation of the Bahamian Riviera. The waste water plant is being built by Baha Mar on behalf of Breezes in exchange for a parcel of land.
Cavalier will also assist Baha Mar with the demolition of two wings of the Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino, which is expected to begin next month.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A RENEWABLE energy provider has told Tribune Business it felt "sidelined" by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation's (BEC) decision to close its open bidding process and then subsequently sign an agreement with Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTEC), adding that this nation could be "two years ahead" if it had proceeded with the former.
Thomas Schneider, president of Canadian-headquartered Schneider Power, which has partnered with a Bahamian firm to form Eleuthera Wind Power, the firm that will be supplying energy for the Water & Sewerage Corporation's Tarpum Bay reverse osmosis plant, said he had never received a satisfacto ...
A renewable energy firm is seeking more than $40 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to build a Seawater District Cooling system for Baha Mar.
The loan, detailed within a report filed by the IDB, is now in the preparation phase. Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation, the U.S. company also looking to build two renewable energy power plants for Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), would receive $40.9 million from the IDB on a project estimated to cost more than $100 million.
In essence, the facility will pump chilled water from the ocean's depths and pump it through the resort, thus cooling the rooms.
Baha Mar has agreed to a 30-year power purchase agreement with OTEC that would see the mega resort reduce its air conditioning costs by up to 90 percent relative to traditional systems and pricing.
Baha Mar would become the second resort in the world to utilize the technology.
The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa implemented the system for its air conditioning needs when it was built back in 2006.
"The energy savings generated by the project are expected to reduce the consumption of 59,312 barrels of oil per year and prevent the subsequent release of 36,408 tons of CO2 each year," the IDB report said.
The proposed project claims to generate up to 12,000 tons of air conditioning per hour, enough to provide full service to the resort's 2,250 hotel rooms, condominiums, a convention center, restaurants, a casino and retrial facilities. The IDB further estimated that the $2.6 billion project is now 25 percent complete.
Baha Mar expects to save at least $90 million over the contract's lifespan, executives from the resort said, based on current projections for oil and gas prices.
"As oil rises and falls, and it will likely rise, we won't be subject to that volatility. Our savings will be that much higher," said Tommy Jones, vice president in charge of operations development.
According to an Environmental and Social Strategy submitted by the IDB, the project will include an offshore seawater intake located North of Long Cay and an actual pumping station on Long Cay. Piping nearly 10,000 feet long would run across to a Goodman's Bay installation, the report said.
"The pipeline will exit the sea at Cable Beach, within Goodman's Bay Park in an area where many cables and sub-sea lines reach the shore from offshore," the IDB report added.
The rest of the construction and installation will take place on the Baha Mar site.
An environmental impact Assessment (EIA) concluded that "there will be no long-term adverse impacts on the three terrestrial habitats from the project", including New Providence Island, Long Cay and Arawak Island.
"In addition, there will be no impacts on threatened, endangered, or otherwise protected areas," the IDB report concluded.
The oil deposits found in The Bahamas could translate into billions of dollars for the national economy, according to business analyst Wayne Johnson.
Johnson, president of Wayne Johnson International, told Guardian Business last week that tapping into the oil industry could in fact change the face of the entire region, leading to a major economic boost for the country and lowering energy costs as well.
"So when you look at that potential, it will change the face of this region in terms of us having lower energy prices that will benefit the consumer. All of the money that the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is paying out, that will actually be eliminated. So instead of passing all that cost to the consumer, we will be able to handle our own affairs," he explained.
Johnson said the next step should be to embark on a massive campaign that would educate Bahamians about the potential that exists in The Bahamas, and how they could benefit from this natural resource.
The controversial topic of oil exploration in The Bahamas was discussed during a recent oil forum hosted by Johnson's company at the British Colonial Hilton. He said that those attending the forum raised a lot of questions on the issue.
Another key component to having a thriving oil industry in The Bahamas, Johnson said, is the development of a national strategy which includes the establishment of a ministry of natural resources and energy.
"It's where the government will have the policies and procedures in place, so that Bahamians can actually maximize the benefits from oil and natural resources, like what they have in Israel where you have a commissioner of petroleum and an assistant commissioner of petroleum. With those officials in place, you can have proper contract arrangements that can be made," he said.
As it stands, Johnson shared with Guardian Business that The Bahamas is already at a disadvantage financially when it comes to generating revenue from oil deposits.
"According to the Petroleum Act, we will only get 12.5 percent in terms of profitability. However, throughout the region, governments are getting anywhere from 35 percent and above in terms of revenue," he said.
He continued, "So we must ensure that we have the right policies and guidelines in place to protect us as a country, so we are able to get the maximum benefit."
Earlier this month, Johnson told Guardian Business that now is the time for The Bahamas to take full advantage of the opportunities offshore oil drilling has to offer. According to him, the country is missing out on potentially billions of dollars in revenue.
TWO assistant general managers at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation were fired late yesterday afternoon, one of them reportedly having just returned from vacation.
The Tribune spoke with Bahamas Electrical Utility Managerial Union president Ervin Dean who confirmed that he was informed of the situation.
"I've been informed that two AGM's were let go yesterday, Mark Hudson and Ervin Dean.
"I don't have all the details at this time because it just happened around 4.30pm."
"However I can say that both are exemplary union members and they will and do have the full support of the union."
Mr Dean said the union will officially address the media once they have received ...
Since the government launched its third electricity reconnection program on February 9, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) has restored power to more than 5,000 households, according to BEC Public Relations Officer Arnette Ingraham.
While Ingraham could not give a specific figure for the number of households that have had service restored, she said that 97 percent of customers who were without electricity in the country have been reconnected.
She told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that at the end of Thursday past, 5,737 customers had registered with the corporation for the electricity assistance initiative.
But she indicated that figure also represents customers who made payment arrangements to keep current with their new balance, and to ensure their electricity supply was not disconnected.
Ingraham also said a total of 491 BEC customers on the Family Islands have registered for the assistance initiative so far.
Ingraham said she felt the program has been successful for all parties involved.
"It's a great tool to ensure that people remain on supply at a point in time when they may not have necessarily been able to pay off their arrears and did not know if their electricity supply would be turned off," Ingraham said.
"So it's been great for those people."
Ingraham said the program has had the added benefit of generating revenue, which the corporation would have otherwise lost out on, although she did not reveal how much gains the company has seen since the program was launched.
Last month, Ingraham said BEC was averaging around 170 reconnections per day.
She pointed out that the number of customers registering for the reconnection program has declined somewhat, and in the past week, BEC was averaging around 130 reconnections per day.
BEC customers are required to pay their current electricity bill and part of the overdue portion of the bill when participating in the program, and can join a three-year payment plan.
In some cases, Ingraham noted, delinquent customers opted for less than the three-year period.
Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) customers will see a reduction in their electricity bills by at least 10 percent at the end September, BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller said yesterday.
"At the end of September people will see a minimum decrease of 10 percent on their bill, but some may see as much as a 12 percent decrease," Miller said.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said recently Miller will make an announcement on the final BEC savings.
The reduced bills are the result of BEC receiving an exemption from paying excise tax on fuel imports.
Prime Minister Perry Christie announced the exemption in the House of Assembly in May. At the time he said the exemption was projected to result in a 6.6 percent drop in electricity costs.
While the exemption took effect on July 1, Miller explained that BEC had already pre-purchased months worth of fuel.
He said BEC pays 10 percent excise tax on the fuel imports which translates to around $35 million.
The government has said it intends to enter arrangements with private companies to both offer power generation in The Bahamas and to gain a management contract to take over BEC's transmission, distribution and billing of customers.
It will effectively break BEC into two components by the end of the year.
Christie announced last month that the government is seeking to liberalize the energy sector.
The government is reviewing more than 60 proposals from various companies, according to the prime minister.
Christie said the government intends to have all proposals submitted by mid-September.
It is then anticipated that amendments to the Electricity Act will occur in February 2014 to allow for the full liberalization of the generation, transmission and distribution processes.
Christie said this process is expected to further reduce costs at the corporation.
In addition to measures to fight crime and address the lackluster economy, the Christie administration also pledged yesterday to follow through on other key campaign promises, like a referendum on gambling and National Health Insurance (NHI).
Bahamians will get to decide whether the government will establish a national lottery and whether webshop-type gaming should be decriminalized but nonetheless regulated in accordance with internationally-accepted best practices and in a way that would ensure optimal revenue-generation for the country.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) previously pledged to hold this referendum within its first 100 days in office.
In its Speech from the Throne read by Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes yesterday, the new government said that in an effort to reduce poverty, promote human capital development and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of social assistance programs, it will move speedily to undertake social safety net reform.
The government said it is firmly committed to the principle of universal access to health care, decentralized health-delivery systems and a re-engineering of systems for financing the delivery of health care so that it can be more affordable.
The Christie administration said it will take steps to "advance our nation's preparations for the introduction of National Health Insurance in a financially sustainable way".
While on the campaign trail, Dr. Perry Gomez, who is now minister of health, pledged that a PLP government would implement NHI within its first year in office.
In the Throne Speech, the government also said it would initiate a plan to lower the cost of electricity throughout The Bahamas through the development of alternative energy production and improved efficiency at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation in the areas of administration, power, production and equipment maintenance."
The government also pledged to reform the country's education system "to bring it more technologically in tune with the 21st century challenges and to better position Bahamians to compete for jobs both locally and on a global level".
It also promised legislation to establish the University of The Bahamas.
The government signed a $4.6 million contract yesterday to supply key areas throughout New Providence with a comprehensive closed circuit television (CCTV) network.
Tommy Turnquest, minister of national security, announced at yesterday's contract signing at Police Headquarters that Lowe's Security Limited, Avrio RMS Group and Security Centres International will all take part in the first phase of the project. A total of 243 cameras will be strategically deployed throughout New Providence.
"The contract is valued at $4,669,809 and will place firstly from St. Alban's Drive in the west, to Mackey Street in the east, and covering areas at least one mile south of Bay Street," he explained.
"Additionally, cameras will be strategically located in other areas on the island that will focus on high crime areas and 'hot spots', giving police officers additional eyes to monitor, prevent and detect crimes."
He pointed out that the contract signed with Lowe's Security Limited covers the provision and installation of the 243 cameras, the ancillary equipment, video management software, license plate recognition software, all of the servers and storage devices and the outfitting of the command and control center.
Training for system operators and users have also been included in the contract.
Turnquest continued: "Key to the success of this project are the local companies, Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC). The government will contract with BTC to provide the WiFi Network for the project. BTC, at their expense, will purchase and install the network, to provide connectivity for the cameras that will be a part of this project.
"The solution provided by BTC will ensure network connectivity between the cameras, the BTC Wide Area Network (WAN) Nodes, and the Command & Control Centre of the CCTV Project. For the duration of this contract, BTC will provide maintenance and support of the network."
Frank Comito, executive director at the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA), was also on hand at yesterday's signing. He said the implementation of CCTV has been a long time coming, a process that started more than a decade ago.
However, he was pleased that it is now coming to fruition, as it is an invaluable crime-fighting tool.
"Back then, we thought that CCTV was a really good idea, has great value and is working well in the private sector. How do we apply this in a municipal setting in The Bahamas? It has an impact on deterring crime and essentially creating public comfort. The recommendations surfaced again around 2007/2008. In awarding this contract, we needed to ensure that we both have local and international expertise. Personally, I am pleased because I feel that it is an invaluable crime fighting tool," he explained.
In the meantime, Lowe's Security's president and managing director Derek Farquharson revealed to Guardian Business that the first phase's mobilization date is set for May 1.
"The first set of equipment should arrive by the end of June for field testing to be conducted. Deployment is expected to take place by mid-July. Cameras will go live by the end of July. The project is expected to be completed by September," he added.
Lowe's has been operating in The Bahamas for many years and is a well established company in The Bahamas providing a wide range of security services. Avrio RMS Group is a security solutions provider that has a wealth of experience and has undertaken major projects in the United States. Security Centres International recently concluded a major project of similar size and scope in the Cayman Islands, in conjunction with Avrio RMS Group.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham last night promised to create thousands of new living spaces in southwest New Providence.
Ingraham, who did not give a specific date for the creation of the proposed "South Beach Township", explained his "long-term" vision as he opened the Free National Movement's (FNM) constituency office in that area last night.
"The South Beach Township will include 3,000 high-density residential units mixed with commercial, civic and recreational areas," said Ingraham.
"The housing has a smaller footprint than most Bahamian subdivisions and will be divided into three walkable neighborhoods, with live/work accommodation linked by bike and pedestrian paths as well as roads."
He said space for government offices will also be included.
To help control flooding, preserve tree cover and provide public amenities, Ingraham said the area will have a large neighborhood park with a large lagoon which will grow during severe storms as rainfall drains into it.
"A flushing channel will be excavated along the shoreline to improve tidal flow, provide boat access and create recreational opportunities. The spoil from this dredging will be used to restore the beach dune," he said.
As he touted the attributes of attorney Monique Gomez, who will run on the party's ticket for the area in the upcoming polls, Ingraham also revealed that over 1,100 Bahamians have had electricity restored to their homes under a Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) reconnection plan he announced last week.
Under the plan, customers are required to pay their current electricity bills and to pay something on the overdue amount owed to BEC, however reconnection fees will be waived.
Ingraham said last night, "Now some are saying that we are doing this for election. Well what were we doing it for when we put programs in place to have households reconnected to BEC twice before during this term in office?
"There was no election on the horizon then."
He also lashed out at criticisms Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Philip 'Brave' Davis recently levied against the FNM over the crime rate.
"There is no 'quick fix' for crime. Pay no mind to those who suddenly now proclaim that they have what they have never had before - a solution to crime," he said.
"I listened to Brave Davis give the PLP plank on crime on [television]. I kept trying to remember when it was that he came to be on the side of the victims of crime.
"Seems he spends a lot of time defending those on the offending side of crime. Perhaps he, like Saul, had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Ask him when?
"As I watched him [Wednesday] night I couldn't get my mind off '90'. I tried really hard to think 80 or 70 or some other number, but as I watched him, it was '90' that kept popping up in my head."
Davis, who is the member of Parliament for Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador, was the lawyer of Bahamian drug lord Samuel "Ninety" Knowles, who was extradited to the United States in 2006 and convicted of drug trafficking in 2008.
The FNM will be in Marco City, Grand Bahama on the weekend, followed by Bamboo Town next week.
A major international hotel operator has gained approval to construct phase one and two of French Leave Resort on Eleuthera.
The long-awaited nod opens the flood gates on at least $12 million worth of investment on seven-and-a-half acres of elevated land overlooking historic Governor's Harbour.
Shaner Bahamas, a company founded by Lance T. Shaner, will enter into a partnership with Governor's Harbour Resort & Marina to build and finance the resort property. Shaner Bahamas is an off-shoot of the Shaner Hotel Group, a corporation with more than 34 owned or managed properties and thousands of employees.
"Shaner Bahamas is an entity specifically created for
development in The Bahamas," said Eddie Lauth, an investor and partner in Governor's Harbour Resort & Marina and the CEO of Shaner Capital. "They are very interested in this country. We now have approval for development, so we are finalizing the contractors and getting started."
Located just off Queen's Highway, French Leave Resort could indeed mark a resurgence for the hospitality industry in central Eleuthera and serve as an important driver for the economy.
Phase one, Lauth said, includes the construction of 21 hotel cottages, a bar and grill restaurant, and a pool and pavilion clubhouse facility. He told Guardian Business the developer is also committing to phase two "straight away" by commencing underground utilities.
Phase two will see the construction of 17 more cottages, bringing the total number of accommodations to 38.
Groundbreaking should happen as early as next month.
"The marina village site will feature two restored docks and will be able to accommodate only a select few, large luxury yachts," he explained. "The authentic Bahamian hotel cottages are single and detached with covered porches, cedar roofs, block construction and each will have a battery back-up system for 100 percent clean electricity. The inspiration for us is the scale and the wonderful architecture found today at Governor's Harbor with the antique churches and homes."
The announcement has been a long time coming for developers.
Lauth said stakeholders had to "sit tight" for a few years due to a defective title issue. He hopes the first cottages can now open for the 2013 season.
Formerly the site of Club Med, the property was purchased in 2004, with further land acquired from the Frank Lloyd Trust. The developers now hold an impressive 270 acres of prime land in Eleuthera, all of which could transform in the coming years.
Lauth told Guardian Business the ultimate goal would be a resort "with 100 keys".
The 5-star, sustainable, boutique concept has been partly inspired by Orjan Lindroth, the developer behind Schooner Bay in Abaco, Lauth told Guardian Business.
Schooner is in the midst of an aggressive expansion, with an estimated $30 million being spent on infrastructure, amenities and homes this year alone.
Lauth said the 270 acres of land was purchased in Eleuthera partly because stakeholders are concerned with maintaining a consistency of vision, feel and architecture.
Phase one and two of the resort, representing $12 million in investment, will be spearheaded by three or four Bahamian contractors. Lauth said the company is in the process of signing these contracts. Construction should create dozens of jobs, not to mention the long-term employment prospects for Bahamians working on the property.
"There will initially be three or four contractors. We are blessed with high quality contractors on the island and we're very pleased with their work. Right now we're hoping to have everything wrapped up in the next 30 days and break ground after that."
This venture is the first hotel development in the Caribbean by the Shaner Hotel Group.
Hotel brands owned or managed by the company include Marriott, Holiday Inn, Crown Plaza and Renaissance.
The number of Bahamians taking advantage of the electricity assistance initiative has skyrocketed beyond 7,000 homes, Guardian Business can reveal, marking the most successful reconnection campaign in the history of the country.
A total of 7,313 people have signed on to the program offered by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), according to Arnette Ingraham, head of corporate communications.
"It is the most we have ever done," she said. "Even when we did it in the past, it hasn't been this high. What we offer now is a bit more friendly than before. The last time you had to pay one-third of the outstanding balance and the rest over time."
Under the new structure, Bahamians are expected to only pay for their last unpaid bill, in some cases stretching back to 2008. A three-year payment plan is then brought in to guide future payments.
With many clients unwilling or unable to make payments, Ingraham said the new system provides a much-needed structure for many Bahamians struggling to keep the lights on.
The results means better living conditions for thousands of people, not to mention a healthier income stream for BEC.
"We've had a problem with people keeping up to date on bills. This way you are being mandated. Now we have thousands of customers that weren't even on our books for a while. That's more money for us, so we're seeing our clients come in more frequently than before."
The BEC executive noted that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has speculated around 5,000 Bahamians were currently living without power.
She said a number of the more than 7,000 reconnections were not citizens without electricity, but rather those that were proactive and dealt with the situation before it got to that point.
Either way, the startling number of reconnections reveals a tremendous need among Bahamians to reconcile high electricity bills.
The news comes shortly before The Bahamas enters an often troubled summer season.
Last year, rolling blackouts plagued most areas of New Providence, and in March, the CEO of BEC pledged to Guardian Business "we are not going to have any blackouts this summer".
Michael Moss said the company has invested a further $6 million in additional generators in anticipation of the increased load. The added capacity is expected to arrive in the country his month.
Whereas last year BEC brought in 20 megawatts of generation capacity, this year 40 megawatts will be applied to the existing grid to meet the demand for power.
"If you look at the context, we brought in 20 megawatts last year when two-thirds of the summer had already past," Moss said. "This year we will bring in twice as much capacity, and I'm bringing it in early to ensure we will have no blackouts."
By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE BAHAMAS Electricity Corporation's (BEC) executive chairman said yesterday it was too early to tell what impact the Government's assistance program for struggling customers would have on the Corporation's revenue streams, telling Tribune Business that based on the numbers thus far it had waived nearly $10,000 in reconnection fees.
Up to yesterday morning, 537 BEC customers had registered for the assistance initiative launched by the Government last week. Customers are now required to pay their current bill and make a payment on the overdue portion of their bill, but reconnection fees will be waived. The ...
Former minister with responsibility for the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), Phenton Neymour, yesterday accused BEC Chairman Leslie Miller of hypocrisy after he announced a new reconnection initiative similar to the one crafted by the Ingraham adminstration that Miller previously criticized.
Last week Miller announced that the government intends to reconnect the electricity supplies of more than 7,000 delinquent consumers.
"I am very disappointed in Mr. Miller," Neymour said. "Miller stated that the Free National Movement put BEC in a poor position when we put in place a very similar program."
Neymour was referring to Miller's critique of the former administration's electricity reconnection and payment plan program which was intended to provide relief and generate revenue from delinquent and returning customers
"He is being hypocritical," Neymour said. "He orignally criticized the program saying it was not good, and saying it helped people who could have paid.
"But when you are putting a policy in place, it must be a policy for everyone."
Back in March, Miller said many of the customers who benefitted from the former administration's initiative were in the "upper income bracket". He said the move ultimately had a negative impact on BEC's bottom line.
The former administration's initiative, which was launched last February, was also branded as an "election ploy" by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) at the time.
But Neymour insisted that the program did not have any impact on BEC's finances. He said the government gave BEC $4 million at the time to cover any financial implications that would come from the program.
Miller said he wants all households to be reconnected by June 1, adding that delinquent customers will be required to pay a portion of their bill in order to be reconnected.
He gave an example that a customer who owes $2,000 would be reconnected upon paying $400.
A customer with a bill of $3,000 or less will be expected to pay a "fair amount", while a customer with a bill of $4,000 must pay 25 percent.
Asked for his views of the new initiative, Neymour said he does not have sufficient details about the plan. However, he said it is an indication that the FNM was on the right track.
And while Neymour said he supports initiatives aimed at assisting struggling families, he said he has a few concerns.
"When we started the program, it was I who announced that there were 5,200 who were disconnected from BEC, " he said.
"Today he is announcing that the figure exceeds 7,000 which implies that BEC's position is far worse than what it was under the FNM. It also means that the receivables are much worse than when we were in office."
Neymour said the high cost of electricity has contributed to the increase in delinquent accounts.
He said if the government really wants to impact the lives of Bahamians it should fulfill its promise to lower the electricity rates.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham criticized the Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP) plans to reduce the cost of electricity and charged that the PLP administration's last effort nearly bankrupt the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).
Ingraham was asked to respond to contents of the PLP's document 'Vision 2030: A Charter for Governance', which was released Monday night.
In its charter, the PLP said it would initiate a plan to reduce the cost of electricity for consumers within its first 100 days in office.
"They tried that before and broke BEC," Ingraham told reporters after a Free National Movement (FNM) rally in North Andros.
The PLP said it would retrofit public buildings to utilize solar power; convert streetlights to LED fixtures and encourage businesses to conduct independent energy audits to lower energy costs.
The party also pledged to expand the use of natural gas and approve the operation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas plants.
The issue of LNG was a controversial one during the Christie administration. At the time, then Minister of Trade and Industry Leslie Miller pushed for the construction of a 40-mile long LNG pipeline which he said would bring in tens of millions of dollars in government revenue. However, the project faced strong opposition from environmentalists and was eventually scrapped.
On Monday night, the prime minister said an unnamed PLP benefited financially from the proposed LNG deal.
"One of their members got almost a million dollars the last time LNG was coming -- in fees, $900,000 for making the application," he said.
Ingraham also hit out at the PLP for releasing its blueprint for governance just two weeks before the May 7 general election:
"I would have thought it's kind of late for a political party that's in opposition to release a manifesto two weeks before the election, especially a party that says it's ready for an election, preparing itself for an election, said we were late in calling the election and yet they weren't ready."
In 2002, both the FNM and PLP released their election platforms just over a week before the May 2 election.
Ingraham also warned voters not to fall for gimmicks or 'unaffordable' promises and said his party's manifesto is a viable plan for governance over the next five years.
"I'm not in the business of answering questions of what the PLP's plans are," he added. "I have my plan. I couldn't give two hoots about their plan.
"I have my plan. My plan will stand the light of day. My plan is a doable plan, deliverable plan, a plan that you could believe in, and a plan that we will deliver. I didn't just put words together.
"The public of The Bahamas [cannot fall] for any gimmick, false promises, promises that are unaffordable, that can't be sustained."
Caribbean stocks ended the first six months of 2011 higher on the back of large gains on the Junior Market, as well as solid gains among Financial, Retail and Distribution, Manufacturing and Conglomerate stocks.
Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President John Pinder said he does not agree with the government's plans to end the practice of sick pay double-dipping across the board in the public service.
Pinder said he hopes to negotiate a deal with the government that would allow employers to use their discretion over sick pay to benefit workers who can prove that they are legitimately ill.
"I don't want to make it mandatory that nobody is able to benefit in that regard, but the policy should be left at the discretion of the employer," Pinder told The Nassau Guardian.
"Once the employer is satisfied that it isn't a person who does this three or four times a year, then I believe they should be able to allow that to continue."
Pinder said he hopes to negotiate a new policy with the government early next year. He said the union's industrial agreement with the government expires this month.
"I recognize the problem that the government agencies are faced with in terms of when they think people are not legitimately sick and are getting sick slips," he said.
"My thing is when we know a person is hospitalized, sometimes they are [paying] out of pocket. If an employer wishes to allow the person to get their [National Insurance] benefit and their full salaries and they know that they are legitimately sick and they need help, rather than having to come with sponsor sheets and do fundraising events, then I would encourage the employer to support that."
On Thursday, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the government will "outlaw" double-dipping but did not confirm when it would happen.
"Yes, it must be outlawed as quickly as possible," Christie told reporters. "That's the first point, but it's a process, and we want to conform with best practices in the process. But there's no doubt whatsoever about the results that we are trying to achieve or intend to achieve."
Earlier this week, Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Leslie Miller said the government has decided that employees from all government corporations and departments will no longer be able to collect their full salaries and National Insurance sick pay benefits, effective March 1, 2014.
However, Christie would not confirm if the government has decided to end the practice in March.
"The government obviously is aware of the fact that double-dipping is against the law," Christie said. "Let's put it this way, making more money when you're sick than when you're healthy is a contradiction.
"So the government has been taking steps to deal with this issue. I don't know what Leslie Miller said, but when you hear it from the minister of finance you'll know it's gospel."
Miller had initially said he planned to end double-dipping on sick pay in November for BEC workers.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who has ministerial responsibility for BEC, later announced that the status quo would remain until the government and BEC unions address the issue.
Miller told The Nassau Guardian ending double-dipping would save the government in excess of $10 million annually.
THE Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC) yesterday joined its Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) counterpart in launching a residential customer reconnection program.
All residential customers who have had electrical services disconnected for non-payment, will be given a period of two weeks, which ends on Tuesday, April 10, to come in to Grand Bahama Power's Freeport downtown location and register for the reconnection program.
The programme requires qualified residential customers to agree to a three-year payment plan for the balance of any arrears, and to pay one full month's bill. The company will waive the standard reconnection fee. Failure by the customer to properly service the plan ...
Save The Bays: Oil leaks need mapping, recovery plan, BEC underwater wall to help control oil leaks a start
NASSAU, Bahamas -- A leading environmental attorney has found major cracks in the Bahamas Electricity Corporation's (BEC) plan to construct a wall and stop the hemorrhaging of oil at Clifton Bay. Romauld "Romi" Ferreira, a director of Save The Bays, is urging the government-run entity to see the "big picture" by mapping out the total amount of oil lurking in ground water beneath Clifton.
By laying bare the facts, a true portrait of accountability and recovery should emerge, he said.
"This underground plume must be mapped in order to determine the best method of product recovery," Ferreira said. "The product recovery then ought to be led by a suitable qualified private contractor until the target amount of product is recovered. A Freedom of Information Act would guarantee stakeholder access to this information instead of the public being kept in the dark about issues which dramatically impact them."
The call by Ferreira follows a recent announcement by BEC that it intends to build a wall to contain the rampant contaminants.
Not only did the corporation acknowledge the environmental crisis, but it also admitted that it was unclear which oil companies have most contributed to the plume. Ferreira called the admission "startling", noting that it "speaks volumes" about the country's environmental accountability and the lack of regulations and enforcement. A proper investigation into the activities of companies in the area along with mapping the impacted ground water would help determine how much intervention will cost and which players might help foot the bill.
A 70,000 gallon fuel spill at a Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) storage facility in Rock Sound, Eleuthera this week, which could cost the government up to $350,000, exposed the long-running theft of fuel from the island, BEC Chairman Leslie Miller said.
Miller said officials suspect that an unknown thief was siphoning thousands of gallons of fuel from the storage facility for some time. Miller suspects that during this latest incident, the thief left the area abruptly, without the intended fuel, which later overflowed out of a holding tank and onto the ground.
"From all indications, there was theft," Miller said, as he toured the spill site with several government officials yesterday.
"Now our question is how long has this theft been going on?"
BEC officials discovered the spill at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
He said BEC has evidence that similar thefts have occurred at facilities in other parts of Eleuthera including Harbour Island and Hatchet Bay.
BEC will now increase manpower at the Rock Sound facility and look at other ways to mitigate future theft.
"That facility there is never used except when the ship comes in," Miller explained. "The ship was bringing in 110,000 gallons of fuel. As you see, the fuel line...goes to our plant. Obviously someone was smart enough to use one of the tanks as his personal tank. So when the ship comes in, he fills up with about 20,000 gallons of fuel. When the ship leaves, he turns it off, and we suspect that maybe some emergency came up, the fellow had to leave, came back and that's the end result because his tank overflowed and that's how the spill occurred. He was filling his tank and it overflowed."
A statement released by BEC on Thursday said a preliminary investigation found that a check valve was "tampered with and this contributed to the resulting fuel spill".
"We need to put in the proper mechanisms so when the ship comes in more than one person is here," Miller said. "I'm told that the norm is just to have one person here who goes to the ship and sees to it that it's hooked up properly and goes to our plant. Obviously we have some serious flaws we need to correct."
As Miller toured the site - with Environment Minister Ken Dorsett and area MP Damian Gomez - representatives from Baychem were busy cleaning up the spilled oil. About 90 percent of the oil had been contained as of yesterday, according to Miller. He said contaminated soil would be sent to New Providence to be treated and cleaned and later reused.
The spilled fuel is worth $190,000 and clean up efforts will cost another $100,000 to $150,000 - money the financially hemorrhaging BEC can ill afford to spend, Miller told The Nassau Guardian.
"It is a huge loss when you consider the fact that last year BEC spent $348 million on fuel, and every penny counts. That's why your cost of electricity is so high. Our number one cost is fuel; the number two cost is overtime. So those two combinations had a detrimental effect on the profit line of BEC."
Officials discovered the spill at 9 a.m. on Tuesday but did not make the information public until late Thursday.
The entire clean up is expected to be completed in two weeks. Miller said the spill would not impact electricity supply to the island and said BEC had enough fuel on hand.
More than 430 line staff workers who are members of the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union, the labor body that represents line staff at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, cast their ballots in the union’s election yesterday.
There were no reports of voter irregularities or allegations of voter fraud, but some members were of the opinion that whoever is elected to lead the organization must address a number of concerns, including that of privatization and job security, as well as accountability and transparency within the union.
Several members who spoke with The Nassau Guardian claimed there has been no accountability in the union within the last three years.
Presidential candidate Stephano ...
For several hours last Monday, we were forcefully reminded exactly what is meant by an essential service and what it feels like to go about our daily lives without not just one essential service, but minus a pair of them. Today, we would like to Consider This ... what do we have a right to demand from those who provide us with these important services and what should we do if those providers don't live up to their end of the bargain?
Each of us enters into contracts during our lives - contracts with our bank, our employer, even our spouse. Those contracts have very definite parameters, giving us things in exchange for our promise to give something in return. After receiving what we have contracted for, whether it is money, employment or a faithful, loving spouse, if we fail to live up to our end of the bargain, loans get called, jobs are lost and sometimes, marriages wind up on the rocks.
Then, there are the other kinds of contracts where those with whom you have the contract must continue to provide that for which you have contracted as you agree to fulfill your part of the agreement, also on an ongoing basis. These contracts are the kind we have with our essential service providers: The companies from whom we get electricity, water and telephone and, to some degree, cable television and Internet providers, although some would argue the latter are not essential services. However, after being prevented from using ATMs all over the island last Monday because of Internet related problems, many would unquestionably classify them as essential services.
So we innocently sign up for these services, being duly informed about what will happen to us as customers should we breach our part of the agreement but never asking what compensation we could expect should the service provider fail to deliver the contracted services. It rarely occurs to many of us to ask "what happens if the lights go off?" or "what do we get back if the phones fail to work?" or "what can we expect if we have to do without water?" It is almost unthinkable that things like that would happen on a protracted basis. At least it used to be.
We are now a different kind of people. We have shown that we have little patience for politicians who do not live up to their promises. We are becoming a people whose patience is wearing very thin.
We are beginning to awaken to the fact that we do have rights and that an agreement should be taken seriously - by both parties. We are embracing the idea that we do not have to settle for whatever service we happen to get, whether it is good, mediocre or downright absent, as it was on Monday past. We are starting to ask about the fairness of having to pay the same charges whether we get what we pay for or merely a pale shadow of the promised service.
Why, for example, do we have to pay the same price for rusty water coming through the taps into our sinks and washing machines that we agreed to pay for what we were assured was a clear, clean, potable product that would not ruin our clothes and force us to buy bottled water to use for what tap water is supposed to provide? Moreover, when we signed up for water, we did not expect to have good pressure sometimes and dribbles or nothing at other times.
Yes, things happen. Emergencies occur. But emergencies are becoming so commonplace that having a good steady stream of water from your tap for some areas of the nation is now the exception, not the rule. Most just suck it up, so to speak, and pay the full water bill for the less than full service they have received.
And then we have the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC). While we are growing, we were used to power failures because of "generation problems", this past week's massive outage was caused by a "surge on its system", as BEC said in its press release on the event that crippled the capital for hours on Monday past.
But, month after month, consumers who are being asked to pay astronomical bills in return for what is anticipated to be a steady supply of current are being shut off because of non-payment. Business growth is severely handicapped by the cost of electricity as well as its unreliability, caught between going broke paying for it and going broke because you can't open your business because of a power failure - a real example of being damned if you do and damned if you don't.
And what are you offered when their part of the bargain is not fulfilled and the lights kept on? True, we only pay for the power we use, but the problem is much more complex than that. We have contracted for a 24/7 supply. We construct our lives around that understanding. Our business hours rely on that. We buy our food and plan our day around the belief that we will have power. If the contract told us we would have 12 hours of electricity every day, we would plan differently. But it doesn't. And we should have a reasonable expectation when entering into a contract that it will be carried out, just as the other party expects payment. Fair is fair and it's time for BEC to level with its customers, tell us what that contract really means in terms of supply and, instead of charging us for a reliable supply of electricity, bring down the rate for the UN-reliable supply of electricity accordingly.
And then there is BTC. Today it seems as though we are held together and linked to the world beyond with our landlines, cell phones and smart phones. We conduct business, parent our children, sustain our relationships and expand our social life within and outside our communities, all via the miracle of telephony. Without it, the nurtured networks of our lives crumble. We experienced that on Monday as everything ground to a halt when, for reasons that have yet to be discovered, our telephone system failed.
Before Monday, we have been experiencing less than stellar service with our phones. Cell phone systems are being upgraded, we are told, so we are becoming used to large gaps in our connectivity. Our landline system, when it has problems, is now subjected to a new and much more rigid repair protocol that results in a longer wait-time to be resolved. Once again, we did not sign up for this when we entered into an agreement for telephone service. And we certainly did not agree to pay for mediocrity and a constantly evolving system, subject as it seems to be to a trial-and-error kind of level of service.
BTC has provided financial consideration for those who suffered through Monday's debacle but very little reassurance that things will get better as they continue to charge for connections that often do not connect. Fair is fair. As long as BTC is in the upgrade mode, tinkering with systems and fixing platforms, the rate charged the consumer - who really is becoming more of a BETA testing participant - should be adjusted accordingly - and not just for 24 or 48 hours. As with Water and Sewerage and BEC, we are paying BTC for something we are not getting, so that payment structure needs to be addressed in the name of fairness.
Until we can get what we are paying for where our utilities are concerned, being a First World nation will continue to be an elusive dream. But once we are treated fairly by those we contract to provide these services, the sky is the limit and our admission to the First World and the 21st century will be assured.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please allow me a few lines to address the recent Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government board appointees and how the majority of trade union leaders were somehow rewarded for their part in giving the Free National Movement (FNM) government hell during its years in office.
I hope the rights and privileges of the workers of this country are not compromised due to these positions on boards and the stipend pay that comes along.
Let's look at the following as published in the local paper. I draw attention to this Mr. Editor because when the time comes for these union presidents to show their muscle for the best intent of their members, I certainly hope they can flex their stuff the same way they did to the FNM leadership. But, of course, we all know there were promises made to these leaders and some of the pay is already being handed out.
Keep watching Bahamas, more to come. My question is will the workers be shortchanged as their leaders gets richer and richer? I wait to see who will be the first to stand up for their members against this promised happy government.
o John Pinder, president, Bahamas Public Services Union - Bahamas Mortgage Corporation board
o Bernard Evans, president, Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union - National Insurance board deputy chairman
o Belinda Wilson, president, Bahamas Teachers Union - Educational Loan Authority board
o Obie Ferguson, president, Trade Union Congress - Bahamas Electricity Corporation board
o Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson, president, Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas - Bahamas Development Bank board
o Sloane Smith, executive, Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Union - Bahamas Trade Commission board
o Nicole Martin, president, Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union - Prices Commission
- Eyes wide open in Pinewood
Al Jarrett, the former outstanding infielder in baseball and softball, died around 4 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Jarrett in the latter decades of his life here on Earth was known as a prominent financial expert. He became one of the Bahamian banking icons. Jarrett helped greatly to establish the fact that Bahamians had the expertise to function at the highest levels in banking institutions.
He was indeed a trailblazer in the banking industry. Jarrett assisted many other Bahamians and enabled them to progress in the industry. In more recent times, Jarrett regularly called into talk shows to put forth his view of the economic situation in the country. A national advocate, he remained to the end of his journey on this side of eternity passionately concerned about Bahamians being provided opportunities to advance economically in their own country. When he retired from private banking, Jarrett made valuable contributions as chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and the Bank of The Bahamas.
Prior to all of that, however, he was a noted athlete. Jarrett played in the Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA) during his earlier years and was excellent at shortstop. In fact, during his prime he was considered one of the top Bahamians at the position. There was of course Andre Rodgers, and then the rest inclusive of Jarrett. Jeff Williams remembers Jarrett quite well. He and the pleasantly loquacious Jarrett were similar, bankers and sportsmen.
"Man, Al was one of the best at short. He played both baseball and softball very well. At Deltec Bank, he was instrumental as we put together one of the best softball teams in the country. Al would certainly be noted for his profession in banking, but he was a sportsman as well," said Williams. Paul Moxey played with Jarrett and Williams on that Deltec Bank team.
"He played short and I played second base. The one think you knew about Al, apart from the fact that he was very opinionated, was that he was always willing to help you. He would assist however he could," said Moxey.
Media personality Wendall Jones was very somber when we chatted for a bit on Tuesday morning.
"He was my friend man, my friend. He was a good man," said Jones. Jarrett called in often to Jones' Love 97 radio talk show "Issues of the Day" and also appeared on television shows produced by the Jones Communication Network (JCN). It is my understanding that Jarrett was set to return to the chairmanship of the Bank of The Bahamas when he died.
I extend condolences to his wife and family. May his soul forever rest in peace!
To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com.
Prime Minister Perry Christie proposed recently sweeping changes to the energy sector of The Bahamas. This includes, essentially, breaking up the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).
BEC is a failed state entity with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt and an overpaid staff. It also is unable to carry out its primary mandate of providing consistent electricity to consumers. The disaster that is BEC is not just because of its management. Successive governments have allowed politicians and wannabe politicians, who know nothing about power generation, to directly run BEC for years.
BEC has become a hindrance to economic growth. Many businesses and residential consumers simply cannot afford to pay for the power BEC sells. Change had to come. While the final liberalized model has not yet been selected, it is good that the prime minister has recognized that comprehensive reform of the energy sector is critical to our national development.
Christie should not stop there, however. There are several other dysfunctional loss-making state entities that need to be reformed. Bahamasair and the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas come to mind.
Let's start with Bahamasair. The government has pumped a half a billion dollars into this airline since it was created in 1973. It has not made a profit and never will as long as the government owns it. While it was necessary decades ago to have "public transportation in the air" to ensure Bahamians could navigate this archipelago, things have changed. Local airlines have emerged, and they continue to expand their services. Rather than spending $20 million a year or more on Bahamasair, why not offer much smaller subsides to private airlines for unprofitable routes and let them move people around? Bahamasair could be given to a private group - if anyone wants it - and that burden taken off the backs of Bahamians.
The broadcasting corporation, better known as ZNS, too is a place where waste is the norm. The quality of its news has significantly deteriorated in recent years and the scope of its original programming is quite limited. Should we spend $8 million, or $10 million or $12 million a year forever for what we are getting from ZNS?
There is nothing wrong with retaining a public broadcaster but there should be value for money. You could never watch ZNS and be quite informed by consuming other media in The Bahamas.
Just as Hubert Ingraham pushed liberalization of the telecommunications sector with the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) sale and Christie now is moving to energy with the proposed changes at BEC, the spirit of reform must touch some of these other wasteful state enterprises.
Money is tight. Economic growth is weak. Sensible reforms can lead to job creation, savings and a lessened tax burden. Christie should not stop at BEC. He should also not be deterred by unions who want to cling to a past where inefficient and ineffective workforces kept getting more and more while the quality of service delivered to the people kept deteriorating.