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News Article

August 01, 2014
The meaning of transparency

The Bahamas has a difficulty with the concept of open government. We as a society subscribe to the theory that in electing members of Parliament to represent us, we are also giving them free rein to make decisions on our behalf. If we are unsatisfied with their performance, we have a chance to replace them every five years.
We do not tend to see our elected officials as employees; paid administrators answerable to us, the shareholders of "Corporation Bahamas". Rather, we venerate them as "leaders", visionary captains of the ship of state who are tasked with charting the way forward so the rest of us can follow.
Transparency, according to this paternalistic scenario, is defined as officials revealing only what in their wise opinion, the public needs to know. Otherwise, we are meant to trust that they are making the correct decisions on our behalf.
So, the response of Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis to the U.S. Department of State's latest investment climate report on The Bahamas was unsurprising.
In the face of claims that government contracts are tampered with and issued under a veil of secrecy, Davis said he believes the process is "quiet transparent".
He added: "I don't know what they mean by not being transparent. Again, these are generalized statements and the use of this word that has a wide meaning. What do we mean by what is transparent?
"The fact that I may not tell you each step of a process, or the fact that I don't reveal to you the names of parties involved, is that what you mean by a lack of transparency?
"Or is it not transparent because I'm doing a deal on the side with somebody? What does it mean?"
The answer of course, as far as the United States and other advanced democracies are concerned, is all of the above.
Transparency means that our representatives inform us of each step in the process of granting a contract; that they name all parties involved and what's more, reveal the details of their bids as well as their level of experience and track record.
One of the main reasons transparency requires all these steps, is precisely to ensure that no "deal on the side" is being done, and that the public is getting the best possible value for its money.
In a nutshell, the modern concept of transparency means that every detail of every decision or transaction made on the public's behalf is open to public scrutiny and all relevant documents are available to any citizen upon request; barring, of course, where government can demonstrate the need for secrecy to protect personal privacy or national security.
Since the release of the report, some have rushed to point out that the U.S. government often fails to live up to its own ideal. This is a fair, but ultimately irrelevant observation.
The ideal itself is what is important, both because it gives citizens an objective standard to judge their government by, and because it is a potent symbol of the public's sovereignty in a representative democracy.

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News Article

May 25, 2012
Guy Harvey partners with Green Turtle Club

Weeks after parting ways with Bimini Big Game Club, Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts has reached an agreement with the Abaco-based Green Turtle Club.
The new alliance becomes effective immediately, as the Green Turtle Club will become the inaugural member of the new Expedition Properties Portfolio by Guy Harvey Outpost. President of Guy Harvey Outpost Mark Ellert said the partnership is a perfect chance to showcase one of the hidden gems in The Bahamas.
"We are extremely excited to launch the Expedition Properties Portfolio with the famed Green Turtle Club as our inaugural member hotel," Ellert said. "Our intent with Expedition Properties is to showcase small, independently owned properties in unique destinations that are focused on watersports recreation and whose owners are committed to customer service, sustainability and conservation.
"Given the Club's legacy, the professionalism of its staff and dedication of its owners, I'm hard pressed to think of a better opportunity in The Bahamas than this."
The news comes after Guy Harvey Outpost cut ties with Bimini Big Game Club earlier in the month, with foreclosure issues influencing the move in another direction. The two former partners had a business relationship for two years, in which Guy Harvey Outpost pumped $3.5 million in renovations to revitalize the Bimini-based resort.
Due to the foreclosure setback, it prevented Guy Harvey Outpost from purchasing the property when it wanted to, which spurred the decision to take its business interests elsewhere.
As an Expedition Property, Guy Harvey Outpost will market the club and offer travel and booking services to its customers through its Outpost Travel Desk and central reservation office. Co-owner of Green Turtle Club Adam Showell said the company led by Ellert was an ideal fit for both parties.
"Guy Harvey embodies the personality of the club, and its guests," Showell said. "His authenticity, commitment to excellence and passionate outreach to those of all ages and accomplishment are hallmarks of the Green Turtle Club."
While the deal between Guy Harvey Outpost and Green Turtle Club is still fresh, Ellert hinted at more opportunities that may await.
"Thirty degrees north and south of the equator, there are a lot of great properties with committed owners like Adam and Ann who share our vision of sustainability and hospitality," he said. "In growing the Expedition Properties Portfolio, our intent will be to spotlight these properties and encourage our customers to support them."

Green Turtle Club offers 31 guest rooms, a 40-slip marina and fuel dock, restaurant, bar/lounge and poolside bar. The Club hosts the annual Green Turtle Club Billfish Tournament, having just concluded its 25th Silver Anniversary last week.

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News Article

June 06, 2012
URCA issues pre-approval on number portability

By next year, Bahamians will be able to switch phone companies without having to change their coveted number.
The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has released a preliminary determination on number portability, an issue that should come as welcomed news to at least one telecommunications provider.
Cable Bahamas Limited (CAB), in its push into the fixed-line market, has been eagerly awaiting a ruling on number portability. From a marketplace perspective, the current inability to switch companies and keep your number is a major obstacle to getting alternative phone service, according to Mark Cabrelli, CAB's vice president of marketing and sales.
CAB launched its fixed-line service as a competitor to the Bahamas Telecommunications Company's (BTC) services last year.
REVoice has marketed itself as a more affordable and high-quality product, and included extra services such as voice mail at no additional cost. BTC remains the leader in this market, although CAB, according to recent reports, is approaching more than 10,000 subscribers for its new service.
In URCA's determination, obtained by Guardian Business, "number portability shall be implemented for fixed numbers as soon as technically and economically possible, and for cellular numbers from the date of commencement of competition in the cellular voice market".
Executives in charge of the initiative set a deadline of July 2013 to complete the project.
However, URCA executives noted in the report that number portability will not allow Bahamians to move their fixed number to a cellular service. The URCA determination requires that number portability be brought in before cellular competition arrives in the market, signaling that customers will be able to switch telecommunication companies while still keeping their mobile number.
"This means that pursuant to that proposed determination, BTC and any new entrant to the mobile market in The Bahamas, must have implemented the necessary systems and procedures for mobile number portability," the report stated.
The regulator further insisted that licensees must use all reasonable endeavors to comply with the timeframe for the initiative.
Going forward, URCA is now in the process of appointing a joint regulator/industry working group called the Number Portability Working Group (NPWG). This body will plan and budget the implication of number portability, the report explained.
A central database must be established to accomplish this goal, it continued, which would hold routing information for each number that has been ported from one network to another. The database would be administered by an entity, which would maintain and update the database as required.
"URCA, with the assistance and upon the recommendations of the NPWG, seek and engage the services of an external third party to provide a number portability database and clearing house solution," the report said.
The regulator is eyeing a request for proposals in this area.
The preliminary determination has now opened the floor to interested parties to submit questions, comments and concerns by July 2. A final determination is expected in August.

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News Article

May 29, 2012
CLICO to recover 4.7M in growing 'avalanche'

Liquidators for CLICO (Bahamas) are close to cementing the sale of 41.16 acres in Wellington Preserve, a move that will recover nearly $5 million.
According to documents filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy court in the Southern District of Florida, the proposed "Garber sale" should be approved within the next 30 days, pending a due diligence period.
Ronald Neiwirth, the U.S.-based attorney acting for the insolvent insurer's Bahamian liquidator Craig A. 'Tony' Gomez, has executed a new purchase and sale agreement (PSA) with Symon V. Garber.
"Consequently, the relief sought seeks a second order further amending the confirmed second amended plan of liquidation in two particular areas: First, to authorize the debtor to enter into the proposed PSA with Garber and to close the transaction contemplated by the Garber PSA; and second, to provide that the debtor shall continue to market the remaining 242 acres of land whether as one parcel or as several," the court document said.
The net proceeds, it concluded, minus closing costs and other fees, will go towards the liquidating estate of CLICO Enterprises as partial payment of principal on account of its allowed unsecured claim.
This latest sale follows the "J-5 and Tanen" transaction on May 12, when the liquidator sold a 138.3-acre tract at Wellington Preserve for $13.384 million, the majority of which will be returned to the insolvent insurer's Bahamian subsidiary, CLICO Enterprises.
Guardian Business understands that the $13 million sale, finalized with a prominent individual in the equestrian world, should have a "domino effect" and help generate future sales.
Wellington Preserve is considered by many to be ideal farm and horse-breeding land.
"I know what our real estate broker tells us, that once that domino fell, others might want to bask in his limelight to be part of it," Neiwirth revealed. "This is hopefully part of an avalanche to get rid of the remaining property."
While there is still 240 acres to go, he noted that there are already many interested parties in the remaining plots of land. In this latest $4.7 million deal, Neiwirth said the price per acre is "considerably higher" than the larger 138-acre transaction.
That deal went for under $100,000 per acre, he added, and this latest sale is going for approximately $115,000 per acre - an improvement of nearly 20 percent.
He told Guardian Business that Wellington Preserve has "bottomed out in terms of price", and the strategy of parceling up smaller pieces of land at higher prices is paying off.
Neiwirth credits Gomez, a partner at Baker Tilly Gomez, with spearheading this plan to sell off little farms and horse ranches in bunches of 20 to 40 acres.
"His strategy seems to be working very nicely," he added.
"This is basically very well off horse country, for people who have millions, but even when you have millions you don't want to throw $20 million or $30 million into places to keep your horses. You're not really living there."
CLICO Enterprises is owed around $73 million by the Florida-based real estate project.
Neiwirth said a total recovery of $40 million is indeed possible, which would be approximately 55 percent of what's owed to policyholders and creditors.
CLICO Enterprises is the entity through which CLICO (Bahamas) invested funds into Wellington Preserve.

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News Article

May 24, 2012
CBA Report: Who Will Be the Real Opposition to the New Bahamian Government

Who will be the effective opposition to the PLP in
government and in the next Elections is an interesting proposition. The primary
opposing political force must have as clear and decisive a direction as the
governing PLP party. It is apparent that the FNM with its nine sitting members
of Parliament will be the official opposition, but is there a role for the DNA
going forward?

The efficacy of
opposition parties and their viability in the next Election cycle is a most
important issue for the protection of the interests and concerns of the Bahamian
Diaspora abroad. The Council for Concerned Bahamians Abroad (CBA) will be
closely monitoring and reporting on the progress of the opposition parties, as
currently their future appears to be uncertain...

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News Article

June 14, 2012
Strong sales for 34 million real estate development

Nearly all of the available properties of the $34 million Turnberry Townhomes development have been sold, despite the challenges faced by the economy during the project's developmental stages.
All 257 lots have been purchased and 70 of the 80 townhomes are now occupied, with a steady sales increase over time, even during the recessionary period, making the real estate investment a success. Principal behind the project David Bronstein said the decision to follow through with or without a guarantee of sales is now paying off.
"I think we are one of the few developments started within the past five years that has come to a successful completion," Bronstein said. "For us to succeed as we have in this economy proves to me that a market always exists for a quality product, if you work smart and deliver creative marketing within the confines of the current conditions."
The Turnberry community, combined with Charlotteville, total 257 lots and 80 townhomes and feature a number of amenities in the gated complex. The ground was broken on the development in 2006 and construction commenced the following year. It took 42 weeks to build 40 structures. Bronstein mentioned that a partnership formed with longtime friend Dana Wells and the Fidelity Group was key in bringing the project to life and enabled it to stay on track.
"Over the five-year period investors and investor groups looking for a return and a safe place for their money also bought the townhomes," he said.
"The partnership enabled us to control costs and find economies of scale by building all 80 units at one time. Then we handed the marketing over to an expert."
Owner of Bahama Islands Realty Carmen Massoni utilized a sales pitch that focused on the cost and energy efficiency of the units.
"We know this business very well and recognized the value of the Turnberry package," Massoni said. "Our marketing message was consistent: The convenience of a western location; the lifestyle amenities of the townhomes at Turnberry within Charlotteville; the solid, well-constructed, low maintenance homes, and a built-in community and family lifestyle that would appreciate in value in the short and long-term."
Massoni added that middle-to-upper income Bahamians showed interest in the properties. Bronstein added that all parties involved with Turnberry are winners.
"All are rented for the long term to primarily corporate Bahamas," he said. We're pleased with the outcome; it's a sweet deal for everyone."

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News Article

June 14, 2012
Police staff association reaches breaking point on outstanding balance

Bahamas Supermarkets Limited (BSL), the former parent company of the City Market supermarket chain, is facing legal action yet again, Guardian Business can confirm.
Devard Francis, the attorney representing the Royal Bahamas Police Staff Association (RBPSA), confirmed yesterday that his firm LaRoda, Francis and Co. has filed a default judgment against BSL for failure to pay the rest of the funds owed to the RBPSA and is now waiting to secure a court date.
He shared with Guardian Business that RBPSA members have been patiently waiting for the owed monies, and have now reached their breaking point.
The RBPSA alleged earlier this year that BSL had an outstanding balance of more than $80,000 for unpaid services rendered by association members last year. A writ was then filed against BSL in the Supreme Court, claiming the company owes officers $81,321.50.
"Sometime in 2011, the plaintiff (RBPSA) and defendant (BSL) entered into a written agreement whereby the defendant hired the services of the plaintiff to secure its five New Providence store locations and three Grand Bahama locations during its hours of operation," the writ stated.
Devard Francis subsequently told Guardian Business that a deal had been brokered and therefore the lawsuit against BSL was dropped.
At that time, Francis revealed to Guardian Business that an amicable settlement was made between the two parties, though he refused to disclose the conditions.
He further shared that full payment would be given to the association first, and then distributed to the officers.
Sgt. Darrell Weir, RBPSA's executive chairman, said to Guardian Business yesterday the association is becoming increasingly frustrated, as the services were rendered nearly one year ago.
Weir disclosed that BSL has an outstanding balance of more than $35,000.
"The officers are constantly complaining that they have not received their monies as yet. We're going into almost a year since the service has been rendered. One lump sum has been made, but none since then," he noted.
"The officers need their money because they rendered a service. The members of the police staff association want their money. A fair day's pay for a fair day's work."
BSL President Mark Finlayson had allegedly promised the outstanding balance would be paid in full last month.
"We have been trying to negotiate payments and have been working feverishly towards it but to date, we have only received a partial payment of that particular sum. They have reached their breaking point, being more than patient, as the sum is still outstanding for officers in Nassau and Freeport," according to Francis.
"Our firm intends to secure a date with the court to assess damages as we have already filed a default judgment."
The attorney shared with Guardian Business that he expects a court date to be given within the next two weeks.

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News Article

June 07, 2012
Has the DNA thrown in the towel

Dear Editor,

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) celebrated its one year anniversary on May 12, 2012. This is a noteworthy accomplishment given the respectable support that it received during the last general election. The DNA hosted several town hall meetings, street meetings and even several "mass rallies". They were also able to nominate a full slate of candidates in a general election; an historic feat in Bahamian politics.
I am of the view that because the DNA had many triumphs in just one year that in five more years the sky would be the limit for this party. Success only comes though with continued hard work. Since the general election of May 7, 2012 the DNA's camp has been noticeably quiet. There was the concession speech by Mr. Branville McCartney, the party's current leader and a press statement by current chairman, Mr. Mark Humes.
Nearly one month has passed and the public at large has yet to hear of the plans going forward of the DNA. This in my view will not deepen the DNA's base and is threading on irresponsibility. In fact this nonchalant approach may well cause its base to erode. Has the DNA stopped trying to deepen the democracy in The Bahamas? Has the DNA followed the predictable path of former third parties who lost at the polls and threw in the towel?
Many Bahamians have expressed their desire to vote for the DNA the next time around and many of them say that if the DNA continues its pre-election agenda, that it will at the least be the official opposition in 2017. Many Bahamians are hoping for the demise of the Free National Movement (FNM) and are plotting that in 2017, the FNM will not be elected to office.
I can say emphatically that the FNM is a well-established institution and in 2017 they will again be a major contender for the Government of the Bahamas. The same cannot be currently said for the DNA but if they were to regroup, they will again adversely affect the FNM's performance in 2017.
This is a critical period for the DNA because it must quickly decide if it will continue on with its message of change for The Bahamas or if it will give up its mandate and sink into oblivion. History I can tell you is not on the DNA's side.
The DNA fully expected to win several seats in the last general election and even though the consensus amongst the majority of Bahamians is that the DNA performed well, insiders know that the loss for the DNA was a crushing blow. But if the DNA is really serious about change, the fight will continue. If feelings of disappointment still exist, I want to say that these are normal occurrences. But life must go on. Confucius once said, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall".
The DNA failed to win the government of The Bahamas. The question is, will the loss cause them to rise or has the defeat sealed the DNA's fate? I say to the DNA party leader and its executive members that one month has now passed and it is high time that they get back to the drawing board and make public their course of action. Thirteen thousand Bahamians voted for change and this commitment deserves at least a public announcement of the party's direction.
There have been at least 50 stories that the DNA could have addressed since the May 7 general election. The FNM has already regrouped and they are trying to mount an effective opposition to the current government. They have elected a new leader, deputy leader, chairman and all its party officers. They have set their goal of retaining the government of The Bahamas in 2017. The same cannot be said for the DNA.
One month of silence for a political party, whether it is 40-years-old or one-year-old in my view is an attempt either knowingly or unknowingly at political suicide. I would admonish the DNA to take a page out of the Bahamas Democratic Movement's (BDM) book after the 2007 general election. They were relentless in their opposition to what they perceived as bad policies by the then governing FNM party and the opposition PLP.
The DNA will not be a contender in the next general elections if their silence continues. Whether they have thrown in the towel or not is any one's guess. But they have a responsibility to come to the people and state their future plans.

- Dehavilland Moss

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News Article

November 10, 2012
BeBe Winans, You're PLP For real though

Dear Editor,

Initially I did not intend to write a commentary on the weekend's events over at Atlantis, but since persons have asked: I have said in past op-eds and it bears repeating, national events should always be apolitical meaning no political party should at any time be the focal point or muse for such events.
Why BeBe Winans, an American gospel artist, felt the need to state from the stage that he was PLP was beyond stunning for among other things this key reason: all musical artists, especially American artists know that when they perform in a foreign country, they are to never make statements of any kind from the stage about that country's politics or its government.
BeBe Winans is already a singer. So if he also felt the need to sing for the "PLP", I am on the one hand left to wonder what his precise affiliation with the governing party actually is; and on another hand, left to assume that the government was paying for him to both appear and perform in The Bahamas. If so, how much did we pay Winans, since it is my money and your money as taxpayers that paid him if the government paid for his appearance, either in part or the whole?
Bebe Winans is a gospel singer. God is not PLP, so his statement clearly had nothing to do with praising God and was out of order in the context of the music business, not to mention ridiculous from the standpoint of entertaining those in attendance since he cannot be silly enough to believe that an entire nation of people in a democracy only supports one of several political parties therein. And this is precisely one of the reasons behind artists being prohibited by their record labels from doing what Bebe Winans did.
As for statements made by Sir Sidney Poitier to or about Prime Minister Perry Christie, I do not have the direct quote of his comments, and therefore do not want to comment on what I am not certain of.
But, if he did make comments of a political nature, those too, would have been completely inappropriate at what is supposed to be an event celebrating being Bahamian, not being a supporter of the governing party.
And for the armchair patriots who are rearing up to say "every political party does this" - no they do not and no they did not. When the national stadium, as one example, was officially opened, the former administration (thanks to the late Charles Maynard) was so focused on having authentic Bahamian artists as headliners that it brought in Johnny Kemp.
I will never forget when I saw Johnny step on stage singing "Just Got Paid". I said to myself, "well muddo, where they found Johnny Kemp from?"
But he is Bahamian, so wherever he was, he ought to have been found, and he was.
To the government of the day: one does not have to be a supporter of yours to be Bahamian. One is no less Bahamian if he or she does not, never did or never will support your party.
If you know that, please remember it. If not, please do learn it.

- Sharon Turner

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News Article

June 04, 2012
Demonstrating political maturity

With a change of government, the new administration has the right and the responsibility to make various changes it deems best in the conduct of the nation's business. This includes the reassignment of human resources in terms of civil servants, board assignments and contracts.
A certain level of patronage is to be expected. So, too the reassignment of senior public officers including permanent secretaries.
Still, during transitions from one administration to the next there is the risk of excess. There is the potential excess of a party's more fervent supporters who often give vent to pent up frustration and a desire for "payback".
Oftentimes this is manifested in supporters blowing off steam. Sometimes the result is unacceptable behavior such as the intimidation of the supporters of other parties and other crude behavior that is unacceptable.
The Government of The Bahamas does not belong to any political party. The government of the day is a caretaker and steward, not a proprietor. Today's government is tomorrow's opposition and vice versa.
In terms of right and proper conduct, we do not accept the baseless and immature argument, "Well the other side did it. Now, it's our time." It is never time to indulge certain mind-sets and behavior, a point we have previously made regardless of who is in office.
The tamping down of excess by one's supporters is always an obligation of political leaders. Excusing or ignoring any such excess reflects on the leaders of a party in or out of office.
Equally important is the question of potential victimization. This may include the cancellation of various contracts including for professional services, consultancies, infrastructure, public maintenance or other purposes.
First, there is the reality of a new government's self-interest. A party that the public believes is indulging in victimization risks a backlash and the loss of support from independent voters and its own supporters.
For example, the canceling of a business contract for a supporter of another party may result in that individual having to lay off employees who voted for or supported the incoming administration.
Then there is the national interest. We simply have to progress beyond the temptation to indulge in the petty, knee-jerk and undemocratic victimization of others that we have witnessed in various governments over the years. It is wrong and it generates an unhealthy bitterness in the society.
Those who do not recognize that it is in their self-interest and in the national interest to demonstrate restraint and maturity may pay a price for such behavior even as that behavior exacts a cost on our progress as a nation.
One example of political maturity by the new Christie administration would be to retain some of the talented Bahamians already serving on a number of public boards.
While we expect such boards to be substantially populated by new appointees of the new Government, there are individuals with certain experience, and technical or academic expertise, who should be retained for the national good.
We are too small a country to dismiss certain talent because "they aren't one of us" or because "we don't know how they voted".

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