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A MOTORCYCLE wreck turned a Lenawee County man into a paraplegic. Desperate for any relief, he chose stem-cell surgery in Europe, a procedure that may have improved his health but left him with a $51,000 bill.
Now, after years of litigation, the Michigan Supreme Court says Kevin Krohn's auto insurance company doesn't have to pay, declaring that the experimental surgery -- not approved in the U.S. -- was not "reasonably necessary" under state law.
The recent 4-3 ruling closes a case in which the court's conservative Republican majority prevailed over liberal Democratic justices. At least six civil cases this year have been decided by the same mar ...
By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
PLP representatives held a joint press conference outside the National Insurance Board (NIB) Baillou Hill Road Headquarters yesterday claiming that the unemployment rate is higher than recent government reports indicate.
MP for Elizabeth Ryan Pinder said the recent employment statistics released last week are misleading Bahamians into thinking that the country's unemployment situation has improved.
"These figures are FNM voodoo economics at its best," said Mr Pinder.
The Department of Statistics released the results of its Labour Force and Household Income Survey on Friday, revealing a slight decrease in the nu ...
TURKS & CAICOS - Last night we learned that the Governor intends to appoint a non Turks and Caicos Islander to the position of Director of the National Insurance Board.
We do not accept this as appropriate or within the Governor's remit to appoint a director who is a non Turks and Caicos Islander for some 3 years particularly when a General Election is due soon.
In the history of the board this would be a first. National Insurance Board is a Turks and Caicos Islands institution imagined, created and enshrined in law by both PDM and PNP Governments. However, it was under the watchful eye of the Wetherell Interim Government that brought us the collapse of TCIBank...
Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis announced yesterday that he has appointed a shadow Cabinet on behalf of the Official Opposition.
Each of these appointees will have primary responsibility to speak in the House of Assembly or the Senate on their areas of designated portfolio responsibility on behalf of the Opposition, the FNM said in a statement.
It noted that the duty of a shadow minister is to shadow and keep track of all the policy initiatives, actions and defaults of the substantive Cabinet minister, to advance alternative policy or principled arguments on behalf of the Opposition and the Bahamian people, and to assist the leader of the Opposition in efforts to regain the government.
The statement noted that the shadow Cabinet is an established feature of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, and flows from the constitutional authority of the leader of the Opposition in Parliament to be prepared at a moment's notice to form a new government, should the occasion arise.
Dr. Hubert Minnis- Shadow minister of national security and health
Loretta Butler-Turner - Shadow minister of social services and national insurance
Neko Grant - Shadow minister of works and urban development
Desmond Bannister - Shadow minister of education, science and technology
Zhivargo Laing- Shadow minister of finance and financial services
Edison Key- Shadow minister of agriculture, marine resources and local government
Hubert Chipman- Shadow minister of foreign affairs and immigration
Peter Turnquest- Shadow minister of Grand Bahama
Richard Lightbourn- Shadow attorney general/minister of legal affairs
Theo Neilly- Shadow minister of tourism, transport and aviation
Kwasi Thompson- Shadow minister of environment and housing
Heather Hunt - Shadow minister of youth, sports and culture
After four years and three attempts to hold elections, the Airport Airline and Allied Workers Union (AAAWU) recently elected its new executive team led by Nelerene Harding.
Harding who was voted in as president of the AAAWU said her entire slate was elected.
"For us, it told us that the members really wanted to put this behind them. This has been our third attempt of having elections," said Harding in an interview on Sunday.
The Court of Appeal ruled last year that the union's elections would have to be held in May or June of this year.
She said nominations were on June 6 and elections were on Friday, and nearly 310 people voted throughout The Bahamas.
"We feel that this is it now," she said.
"...For almost four years now there has been nothing going on for the rights and benefits of workers."
Harding said she will start working on preparing to begin bargaining on the union's new industrial agreement which expired in 2009, and also finding a new company that will give union members a lower rate on insurance coverage.
"It's been so long [and] we have a short window in there to start negotiating and that's going to commence immediately," she said.
She was first elected as the union's president in 2003.
However, she resigned in 2007, but that move was never officially accepted by the membership, some of whom took the issue of who should be president to court.
After her win, Harding noted that there is much work to do but said that going forward the union must work together.
The Bahamas has been designated a "medium risk" country in terms of money laundering and terrorist financing, according to a global research report conducted by the Basel Institute on Governance, ranking it fourth among countries in the region.
The 2012 Basel AML Index, obtained by Guardian Business, reveals The Bahamas was given a 6.37 rating, which falls in the medium range. While the score ranks in the top-third of all the countries assessed, no alarms should be rung, according to the former head of the Bahamas Institute of Charted Accountants (BICA).
"I don't see The Bahamas having that rating for very long because the steps that have been taken by regulatory bodies have better positioned us and they have put in a lot of work to ensure that Anti-Money Laundering (AML) programs have been up to standard," Reece Chipman said.
"We shouldn't panic because of the rating, because we have taken efforts to improve our global standing. But it does give us something to look at as to where we need to go from here."
Chipman added that some modifications made to certain policies and guidelines by certain regulatory bodies, such as the Securities Commission, Insurance Commission and the Compliance Commission, are instrumental towards lowering the risk rating going forward. He mentioned that training conducted by these entities will also help to ensure that the country is moving in the right direction and steering clear of a higher rating in the future.
The Bahamas is ranked 43 on the Basel AML Index, with only three other Caribbean countries ahead of them on the list. Trinidad and Tobago is ranked 31 on the list with a 6.67 score (medium), the Dominican Republic is listed at 17 with a 7.17 rating (high) and Haiti is four with a 8.16 score (high). Jamaica is the lowest ranked Caribbean nation on the index, listed at 118 with a 4.77 score (medium).
Chipman, also the director on the Board of Directors of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of the Caribbean (ICAC), said that other Caribbean countries will also follow suit to improve their standing when it comes to its anti-money laundering reputation.
"I think all the countries in the region are trying to do their part in terms of coming up to speed of what is required worldwide," he said. "They realize the disadvantage of not complying and they have to set these standards in order to attract certain levels of business."
The 2012 Caribbean Conference of Accountants held in Antigua comes at the perfect time, according to Chipman, as the focus of the event will be in how the role of accountants will change in anti-money laundering and terrorist financing. Other areas, such as risk management and fraud, will be covered during the conference scheduled for June 21.
The former BICA chief said the information disseminated throughout the conference will be beneficial to both accountants and other members of the financial sector.
An executive at Colina Insurance Limited says medical expenses in the country could rise between six and eight percent next year.
Marcus Bosland, resident actuary at Colina, said recent inflation trends indicate that Bahamians will likely be paying more for healthcare. The steady increase in medical expenses over the years will not halt going into 2013, and it should remain in line with an overall spike in the cost of living.
"There's no reason to expect that costs will not continue to go up in the same way that they go up in everything else we consume," Bosland said. "The recent trends are in the order of six percent per year in terms of cost, which translates into slightly higher rates in premiums and that is probably of the order I expect."
Bosland's comments came at Colina's annual health forum, which was held at the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort late last week. The free public education seminar focused on medical insurance and touched on various areas, ranging from the overall benefits of having a plan to why medical insurance costs rise.
Bosland offered insight on the variables that affect pricing. He mentioned that bringing this sort of awareness to the public is essential to providing the best service to its clients so they won't be faced with high medical bills.
"It's important to know [why medical costs rise] so you can plan for it," he said. "Oil prices have been increasing over the year and medical prices are no exception and medical insurance prices as a consequence is no exception. People have to understand that because when you are faced with an increased price you need to make a decision in the context that you understand that the prices are going up."
The resident actuary added that relief for medical insurance prices could come due to a domino effect created by tariff reductions on medical equipment, with EKG machines and filters the only items that were changed to duty free, according to the 2012/2013 budget communication. He said if other medical devices can experience some type of reductions, it could slow the rise of medical expenses, which will in turn mean better insurance rates for Bahamians.
The educational forum was very timely, according to Vice President of Finance for Colina Catherine Williams. She felt the event was the perfect setting to engage in dialogue about the dynamics of medical insurance.
"We do get a lot of questions from time to time from our clients, and a lot of the time it's important for us to make sure our clients understand what they purchased and what type of benefits they received," Williams said. "The more clients understand what they have bought and what they are entitled to the better it is for us to ensure that we service them properly. Where we see a need to educate our clients, we do the best we can."
Months after Bahamas Supermarkets Limited (BSL) closed its final City Market location, millions owed in severance and pension are still outstanding.
"As of March 30, the company has been suspended and we are now into June and there has still been no financial compensation for former BSL employees. Despite having five meetings on this matter, the company has issued no money," according to Wanslaw Turnquest, former inventory control auditor at City Market.
Turnquest confirmed to Guardian Business that hundreds of former City Market employees are owed in excess of $3 million in severance pay.
"We are going after that money. We plan to get every single dime that is owed to us, as the matter has yet to be resolved. This is outrageous, as BSL is a publicly traded company and certain procedures should have been followed," he explained.
The former employees are also looking to be paid monies from the company's pension fund.
Turnquest said it is now a matter before the courts, as legal action has been filed against the supermarket chain's original owner, Winn Dixie.
"There should have been a lot of money in the pension fund. The last transaction on the pension fund was reportedly made in 2006. There has been no additional money added to the fund. The only thing that has been accrued over the years is interest," he said. "If there has been no financial transaction on the pension fund, that makes it null and void. If an international company has sold shares to a local company, there has been no regard for the disbursements of that fund to employees. Dissolve it and pay out all benefactors immediately."
Earlier this month, National Insurance Board (NIB) Director Algernon Cargill told Guardian Business that he coordinated with the Ministry of Labour and Social Development to create a "one stop shop" to make the application process more efficient for Bahamians seeking benefits. City Market locations have been boarded up for weeks, and now those unemployed workers should have a way to make ends meet.
Applications could be made at the NIB headquarters on Baillou Hill Road.
"From what I understand, they are effectively terminated and unemployed. Once [they] are unemployed, they are eligible for benefits. Apparently there was some reluctance to formally terminate. We don't know why that would happen. Our role is to provide some income replacement," Cargill told Guardian Business.
Former City Market workers have access to 50 percent of their weekly wage.
The benefit, he explained, lasts for 13 weeks. However, that benefit period must be immediately terminated if the workers are subsequently hired by Super Value or any other employers.
Turnquest said the workers are grateful for the unemployment benefit provided by NIB, as it helped to cushion some of their liabilities like mortgages, loan payments and other bills.
Alberta Rahming, a 13-year employee of the supermarket chain, has a different perspective.
"It's been tough. You have some people that could survive and there are others who can't. National Insurance is only paying us based on the last year of our employment. We are not asking for something that doesn't belong to us, some employees have worked more than half of their lives at City Market. If it is a penny, give it to us. The company has already been sold, so where is our money?" Rahming noted.
Scores of frustrated former employees lined the exterior of the Clarence A. Building yesterday. A meeting was scheduled for union representatives, labour officials and BSL to resolve the outstanding financial matters for the struggling supermarket chain.
Guardian Business has learned that the sale was finalized on May 31, but this has yet to be confirmed by BSL officials.
Several calls were made to BSL's president Mark Finlayson, but none were returned up to press time.
Stephen Turnquest of Callenders & Co is representing the workers on the severance issue, and James Thompson will be representing those in Freeport.
The Insurance Company of The Bahamas (ICB) suffered a 70.5 percent drop in its net and total comprehensive income in the year ending December 31, 2011, with unexpected disasters attributing to the dent in profits.
Net and total comprehensive income was recorded at $1.1 million for 2011, a sharp decline from the $3.9 million figure in 2010. Chairman of the company Dionisio D'Aguilar said that unfortunate events such as Hurricane Irene and the downtown fires last year hurt the financial performance, but ICB was fortunate enough to still record a profit.
"The Bahamas was not so fortunate in 2011 as Hurricane Irene made an unwelcome visit to our islands," D'Aguilar said.
"Irene caused considerable damage to properties in the Family Islands, but we were relieved that the storm tracked just to the east of New Providence on its northbound path to the U.S. mainland. Thus what could have been a major insured loss for ICB and The Bahamas' general insurance industry ended up being a substantial but very manageable loss."
During the 2011 fiscal year, ICB saw its net claims incurred rise by 111 percent from $1.6 million to $3.5 million. Net commissions incurred doubled from $269,647 in 2010 to $542,417 in 2011, and excess of loss reinsurance dropped 6.6 percent from $3.2 million to $3 million. Total expenses for the period stood at $6 million, a 29.5 percent increase year-on-year.
Gross written premiums were slightly up year-on-year, experiencing a 1.9 percent increase from $41.9 million in 2010 to $42.7 million in 2011. Net retained premiums essentially remained unchanged from 2010 with a 0.1 percent decline recorded, but net premiums earned dropped by 9.9 percent from $8 million to $7.2 million year-on-year.
Total assets from the company rose by 6.9 percent from $63.7 million in 2010 to $68.1 million in 2011, while total liabilities grew by 10.6 percent from $41.8 million to $46.3 million. Net assets remained almost the same year-on-year at $21.8 million, which was the exact figure for total equity.
D'Aguilar said that the 2012 fiscal year will have its fair share of challenges, which will be felt by ICB and general insurance companies in the country. He mentioned that general insurers will have to adjust to the amendments made in the Road Traffic Act as well, which he expects to come into effect in short order.
"Looking ahead to 2012, the trading environment for general insurers is likely to remain extremely challenging," he said. "Consumer spending power is likely to remain weak as high unemployment levels and expensive fuel combine to depress disposable incomes. To make matters worse, government's major capital projects will shortly be coming to an end.
"Against this rather depressing short term outlook, there is hope, however, that The Bahamas' economy will begin to show signs of significant recovery in the next two to three years as we see the completion of the Baha Mar project and anticipate the possibility of an upturn in the United States' economy."
The Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF) organization is proud to announce its 2nd Annual Golf Invitational to be held at Albany's 18-hole championship golf course, designed by golf icon Ernie Els, on Friday June 8, at 1:30 p.m.
"The BIFF Golf Tournament at Albany is designed to help raise funds for the film festival. We'd like to thank our host, Albany, and all of the tournament's sponsors and players, whose support is essential for the continued success of BIFF and its efforts to promote Bahamian and international filmmaking and to advance The Bahamas as an international film-making destination," said Andrew O'Brien, BIFF chairman.
For the second consecutive year, BIFF has partnered with CIBC FirstCaribbean, "We welcome CIBC FirstCaribbean's participation at this significant level, for the second consecutive year. With the bank's backing, BIFF is better able to support and promote the arts, independent film and culture within The Bahamas and the world," said Leslie Vanderpool, founder and executive director.
Retail Director Richard Phillips said, "CIBC FirstCaribbean is delighted to continue to assist BIFF with hosting the 2nd Annual Golf Invitational. We are pleased to assist and support BIFF's work, especially when the youth are involved. Promoting noteworthy activities within the communities in which we operate is key to our success, and this is a great opportunity to show our support."
This year's tournament promises to be even more exciting than 2011. CIBC FirstCaribbean will be well represented at the event with a team of four enthusiastic golfers and will also provide the players with gift bags filled with golfing gear.
All participants in the tournament will be poised to win the hole-in-one prize of a Mercedes Benz provided by Tyreflex Bahamas.
BIFF is also honored to provide an opportunity to promote our other partners in the spectacular setting of Albany. We wish to thank CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, Coca Cola, SkyBahamas, Tillerman Securities, Western Hardware & Lumber Co. Ltd., RBC Royal Bank, Summit Insurance, Bahama Island Realty, Scotia Private Client Group, Majestic Tours, Credit Suisse, J.S. Johnson, Glinton Sweeting O'Brien, Everykey Global Partners, Bahama Islands Realty, Tyreflex, Mercedes, Nat Moore & Associates, Bahamasair, Bahama Divers, Bahama Hand Prints, Dermalogica, Schooner Bay, Bahama Ferries, A Stones Throw Away, JetBlue, Blu Restaurant, Olives, Winter Haven Hotel, Bimini Market Restaurant, Seafront Sushi, Old Fort Bay Club, Wyndham Resort, Poop Deck, Esso Bahamas, SandyToes Rose Island and Sign Post.
A wonderful addition to the fun-filled day on the links course will be the Bahamas National Junior Golf Team. Nat Moore will be sponsoring four players from this team to play at the BIFF Golf Invitational at Albany.
The players selected from the National Junior Golf team are Bijan Lockhart, Anecia Rolle, Brian Coakley and Chad Clarke. "I knew Nat would jump at the opportunity to sponsor the Bahamas National Junior Golf Team, youth initiatives have always been a very important part of Nat's philanthropy. While living in Miami many years ago, I worked for Nat, planning Celebrity Golf Tournaments and NFL Superbowl kick off events for the Youth, Nat continues to be a role model and a close friend," said Vanderpool.
"The Bahamas has always been a friend to me and the Miami Dolphins. My philanthropy efforts have made it possible to support many kids in the South Florida Community and beyond. My foundation mission is 'Helping Kids Help Themselves' and it is with great pleasure that I am able to support these young scholars, and hope they continue to strive for success and encourage them to pay it forward later in life," said Nat Moore.
Moore is a former American college and professional football player who was a wide receiver in the National Football League (NFL) for 13 seasons during the 1970s and 1980s. He played college football for the University of Florida, and thereafter, he played professionally for the Miami Dolphins in the NFL.
Moore is immortalized in the famous 'helicopter catch' while making a reception against the New York Jets, in Giants Stadium in 1984. He was hit simultaneously from opposite directions by two Jets tacklers, sending his body spinning into the air. The catch was a crucial third-down conversion, leading to a score and a come-from-behind win in a closely contested divisional game. By the time Moore retired, at the end of 1986, in his 13th season with the Dolphins, he had broken almost every receiving record for the Dolphins; his team records, however, were
quently broken by Dolphins wide receivers Mark Clayton and Mark Duper in the 1980s and 1990s. His final career receiving statistics were 510 catches for 7,547 yards and 74 touchdowns. He also rushed for 249 yards and a touchdown, returned 27 punts for 297 yards, and gained 856 yards on 33 kickoff returns.
He is known for his humanitarian work and philanthropy. In 1984, the NFL voted Moore as "Man of the Year", an honor given to a player who gives outstanding service to his community. Moore has also received the Byron White Humanitarian Award in 1986. He created the Nat Moore Foundation, an organization which works with disadvantaged youths in the Miami-Dade county area, in 1998.
On December 5, 1999 he was added to the Miami Dolphins honor roll.
Moore was a football broadcaster for Florida Gators football games on Sun Sports until 2011. As an announcer, he was notorious for adding an "s" to the last names of various players (Chris Leak became "Chris Leaks", Percy Harvin became "Harvins", etc.). In addition, he teams with Bob Griese to provide television analysis of preseason Dolphins games. He also owns a sports promotions firm, Nat Moore & Associates, Inc. He is a vice president in the Miami Dolphins organization and oversees the Miami Dolphins Alumni Association, and also serves as the executive director of the NFL Super Bowl Football Clinic.
About The Bahamas International Film Festival
The Bahamas International Film Festival is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing the local community and international visitors with a diverse presentation of films from around the world. In addition to offering films that might not otherwise be released theatrically in The Bahamas, BIFF will provide a unique cultural experience, educational programs and forums for exploring the future of cinema.
The former chairman of the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (BCB) is defending his performance over the last five years, claiming annual operating expenses fell from $18 million to $12 million.
Michael Moss, who also served as chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), said this reduction in operating expenses at BCB (commonly referred to as ZNS) caused the government's subsidy to be "significantly reduced".
In all, Moss submitted a 12-point document outlining his achievements as chairman from 2007 to 2012. He noted a number of cost-saving measures, including the renegotiation of an agreement for satellite uplink services that brought a $1 million bill down to $330,000. Vehicle, property and all-risks insurance was also brought down by more than $250,000 through "competitive bidding", according to Moss.
BCB also went through a restructuring whereby the workforce was brought down to less than 180, from 280, "yielding a concomitant $4 million reduction in annual operating expenses".
The chairman said staff in New Providence was merged into a single building for television. The vacant building, he explained, was subsequently leased out, which produced revenue and reduced expenses.
Moss also listed negotiation with the Performing Rights Society (PRS) to have a "previously ignored" injunction withdrawn as one of his key accomplishments. Past failures to pay royalties to artists were forgiven by BCB paying $500,000 over four years.
"A single, further payment of $500,000 is to be paid to fully satisfy details of the agreement otherwise a severe, financial penalty will result," Moss explained.
From an over-arching perspective, Moss claims he "commenced and significantly advanced" the network's move from advancing the priorities of the state to becoming a public service broadcaster. A technical transformation from analog to high-definition digital broadcast has also occurred, he said.
Accounts for 2011 are awaiting audit, Moss admitted, although under his tenure he insists the company has cleared a backlog of neglected financial reports, including the years 2003 up to 2010.
"The accounts were subjected to audit in quick succession. Hence, a normal benefit of having accounts audited annually and being responsive to audit concerns expressed in a proper year's audit, could to be taken advantage of. Many of the accounts have therefore attracted similar audit commentary," Moss told Guardian Business.
Fiscal discipline and a review of monthly management accounts were tasks enforced during his tenure, according to the former chairman.
Back in April, The Nassau Guardian reported that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) paid $170,000 of the years-long $248,000 debt.
Moss confirmed that the PLP settled the debt with the corporation leading up to the 2012 general election.
A further debt was contested with the party. Moss stated at the time that, in the spirit of compromise, "the corporation has allowed the PLP to settle that portion of the debt".
Senior league play in the Bahamas Football Association (BFA) wrapped up on Sunday at the Roscow A.L. Davies Soccer Field, with the Insurance Management Bears football club taking home top honors in the Knock Out Cup Final.
The Bears, playing with 10 players, were able to defeat the Baha Juniors team, 7-2. After Renardo McCallum received a red card in the 21st minute, the Bears had to play the remainder of game down a player. Baha Juniors actually led 2-1 after 26 minutes, but the five-time defending champions Bears displayed superior form the rest of the way. The 10-man Bears, who led 1-0 after eight minutes but were down 2-1 after 26 minutes, assumed a 3-2 lead going into the half on two goals by Nesley Jean, the season's most valuable player (MVP).
The second half belonged to the Bears as Demont Mitchell scored a hat trick (three goals) and the league's 'Best Youth Player' John Mareus, solidified the lead with a great individual breakaway goal. In immense heat, the Bears showed why they were the best team all season by manhandling Baha Juniors in the second half.
The goal scorers for Baha Juniors were Alkin Delancy (23rd minute) and Nick Constantine (26th minute).
The Bears scorers were Domingo Hurston (8th minute), Nesley Jean (31st and 49th minutes), Mareus who had one goal in the second half, and Demont Mitchell who scored all three of his goals in the second half.
The statistics are alarming. Businesses, banks, insurance companies, telecoms, utilities, government departments and enterprises that handle funds or sell services are as vulnerable as retailers to fraud and theft, but suffer even more in accidental overpayments, together causing losses of up to six percent annually.
But until recently, uncovering that type of fraud among service providers was much harder to detect and even harder to control.
Now, thanks to a consulting firm that has recovered millions of dollars for Bahamian and Caribbean firms, detection and control are becoming reality, including here where the National Insurance Board was able to use the system to capture and stamp out double entries.
On Thursday, Marlon Cooper, managing director of Symptai Consulting Limited, will be in Nassau to conduct a two-hour workshop expected to be packed with invited guests from financial services, utilities, accounting firms, law offices, hotels and other entities. The event will be held at the British Colonial Hilton at 10 a.m. and is free.
"It's been estimated by a major accounting firm that it takes an average of 342 days to discover fraud in a workplace and by that time 89 percent of the proceeds are unrecoverable," said Cooper, who has trained more than 1,000 audit and control professionals across the Caribbean. "In companies dealing with products, it's easier to detect and trace, but in service companies it is much harder to detect. With this software designed by CaseWare, we are able to ensure that good governance structures are in place so that once there is an exception, it's captured," said Cooper. "People find creative ways to avoid paying for services."
Cooper works locally with forensic accountant John S. Bain, whose expertise has assisted in complex court cases, tracing partnerships, settling conflicts, managing civil and criminal matters.
"We take care of the things that keep people up at night," said Cooper.
More than two dozen former City Market employees waited outside the House of Assembly on Wednesday in an effort to address the issue of their severance packages to Prime Minister Perry Christie and Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson.
As Gibson exited the House, he saw the crowd of around 30 workers and subsequently decided to address them.
Gibson said Bahamas Supermarkets Limited's (BSL) President Mark Finlayson has assured the Ministry of his commitment to pay the employees.
"It is not the case that they are denying that they owe the money, it is the fact that after we were awarded $2.8 million in court they are not paying the money - not one penny so far," former inventory control auditor at City Market, Wanslaw Turnquest told the labour minister.
The purchase of City Market was finalized last month with owner of Super Value, Rupert Roberts.
Turnquest said employees are also looking to be paid monies from the company's pension fund.
Asked whether the government plans to intervene, Gibson said it has been dealing with the situation since day one.
"We met with them; they agreed money was owed and they keep saying it's going to be paid, and that is why I'm suggesting to Mr. Turnquest to file an injunction to at least take control of the pension plan."
However, Prime Minister Perry Christie, who exited the House shortly after Gibson, told Turnquest he would do whatever is necessary to resolve the matter.
"I do understand that your people are suffering; I understand that, and I am prepared to address it," Christie said.
The prime minister said he will meet with Turnquest, Gibson and if necessary Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson.
"You are now going to meet with the prime minister," Christie said. "I am going to use my office to assist you in the best way I can. It'll be [in] a very transparent and accountable way, and it will be intended to get results for you."
The National Insurance Board (NIB) has assisted the 300 workers in gaining 50 percent of their weekly salary for 13 weeks, but months after BSL closed its final City Market locations many of them told The Nassau Guardian that even with the help they are "struggling to survive".
Kim Bodie, former dairy frozen food manger, said he is tired of the rectoric.
"I have a son to put back in school, mortage payments, the bills are piling up and I have to live."
Roscoe Rolle, who is still unemployed, said he is facing dire financial challenges, and expects the government to settle the millions of dollars owed to them.
In May 2005, the previous Christie administration paid out an unprecedented $5 million of the $6.12 million that Driftwood Freeport Ltd., the former owner of Royal Oasis, owed in redundancy pay to 900 displaced workers.
"I have no income coming in with children ages 15, 11, nine and two and their father is not working," said Letitia Johnson, a mother of four and former employee of five years, who was evicted last month after failing to meet rent payments.
"I don't have anything. What should I do as a mother? What should I tell my kids at the end of the day when they cry and say the are hungry?"
Gibson reaffirmed his commitment to introduce legislation to protect employee pensions.
Freeport, The Bahamas - Minister of Labour and National
Insurance Shane Gibson expressed pleasure at the reception he was given on his return to head the
National Insurance Board.
Minister Gibson met with staff in Grand Bahama on Thursday, June
28 to introduce the new National Insurance management team.
Also on Thursday reinstated National Insurance staff members
were re-introduced to the Grand Bahama office, as part of the changes being
made to increase efficiency and better customer service management in Grand
Nassau, The Bahamas -
Minister of Labour and National Insurance D. Shane Gibson met with the
Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) June 27
and listened to the officers' concerns regarding "ethics violations and
managerial abuse of line staff."
The meeting was held in the Conference Room of the Public Service Building on Meeting Street...
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- The Pastor's Pulpit
- Body by Blower - Dr. Brian Blower DC
- Letters to The Editor
- Tyrina Talks Fashion
- Sip Sip History - Bahamas Historical Society
- Preventative Measure - Gamal Newry
- Computer Korner
- Art Life - Susan Mackay
- Hurricane Preparedness - R. Tarzwell
- The Pet Pages - Kim Aranha
- International Year of the Reef - A Week in ReefView
- Plastic Surgery Trends
- Opinions - Joye Ritchie Greene
- Life-Coaching 2.0 - Michelle M. Miller
- Love'n Life with Lisa
- Relationships Matter - Cedric Beckles
The Bahamas Boasts
- Grand Bahama
- Grand Bahama Labyrinth
- Garden of the Groves
- New Providence
A Taste Of The Bahamas
at a glance
Focus on Fashion
Nearly 30,000 pensioners have received a 4.6 percent increase in benefits implemented by the National Insurance Board this month, Guardian Business can confirm.
During his contribution in the House of Assembly yesterday, Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson revealed to parliamentarians that the increases were made to make the National Insurance Board (NIB) more relevant and viable.
The increases, which include a boost in the wage ceiling from $500 to $600, as well as increases in the retirement and funeral benefits and maternity grants, all took effect July 1.
"For retirement benefits, the minimum pension will be increased from $287 to $301 and for the old age non-contributory pension, the minimum will be increased from $245 to $256," Gibson noted.
"Regular adjustments to the NIB pension ensure that the pensioners are able to maintain the same standard as the prices of goods and services increases. Funeral benefits will be increased from $1,600 to $1,680 and the maternity grant will be increased from $430 to $450."
Gibson pointed out that every two years, NIB pensioners will receive an increase based on the cumulative rate of inflation experienced over the previous years. However, he noted there will be no further increases until 2014.
"Inflation in 2009 and 2010 were 1.4 percent and 3.2 percent respectively. And so the increases granted this year are a combined 4.6 percent. This is the rate by which the benefits of almost 30,000 pensioners were increased just last week," he said.
Gibson said several changes were brought into effect at NIB this month. "The age at which persons will be able to receive their retirement benefits and earn any amount in wages was reduced from 70-65. Previously, persons over 60 but less than 70 who earned an income of more than half of the contribution ceiling were ineligible to receive retirement benefits," according to the Labour and National Insurance minister.
"In the case of retirees who choose to delay applying for their pension award until after age 65, their award is now increased by seven percent for each year delayed. This counter balances the current regulation whereby we reduce the pension by seven percent for every year that the person claims prior to attaining age 65. If someone currently claims at age 60, for example, they lose 35 percent of their pension."
He further noted that orphans can continue to receive a survivors benefit even if they are in school part-time. "The previous requirement was after age 16 and up to age 21, they had to be in school full-time."
He also revealed that widows and widowers can now receive a survivors benefit if they were married for less than one year. "The requirement before was that they had to be married for at least one year. We removed the restriction that the sickness benefit could not be paid if sickness was the result of drug or alcohol abuse. The Invalidity benefit is also payable if invalidity was due to either of these causes."
The Labour and National Insurance minister also confirmed that the period for claiming most of NIB's benefits have been reduced from six to three months. This was done to ensure the timeliness of claims information.
"The sole exception is the funeral benefit which has changed from 12 months to six months. Paid vacation was not previously articulated in the unemployment benefits regulations, but now such payments will delay the start of the benefit. Basic wages now include productivity pay for certain classes of workers. This means better coverage of their regular earnings which will be included in the benefits now as well."
A controversial Baptist pastor is asking his colleagues opposed to the legalization of gambling to support the establishment of a special fund, and make regular financial donations for national development programs.
Mount Calvary Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Philip McPhee said he is willing to donate 10 percent of his church's collection every month to the public purse as the government struggles to increase sources of revenue.
He said for those who do not see the approaching referendum as a unifying option, "then together we [must] find a collective pattern that is acceptable to all".
"I would be prepared to lead the way in setting aside 10 percent of our ministry's contribution per month towards specific national developments," McPhee said in a statement.
Noting that the government has a substantial revenue challenge, he said, "The churches already have the means to collect significant funds.
"We can bring together these pockets of economic systems and develop a singular corporate entity with specific, agreeable goals. So both the church and the state have the means to pool resources for specific national development."
He said some people give offerings to churches only to be told that these churches can't help them.
McPhee came under fire recently -- in and out of religious circles -- for saying he accepts donations from a numbers house.
The Christie administration plans to bring a gambling referendum by the end of the year.
If Bahamians vote in support of legalizing gambling then the government would tax the industry.
McPhee said clergymen opposed to the idea should come forward with solid plans for the country's progress, including
committing some of their churches' revenue to the government, instead of only talking about what they do not want.
He added that churches have a significant revenue stream that is untaxed like the illegal number houses.
"We all agree that the gambling houses, like the church, are significant sources of income, none of which are presently taxed or contribute up front to our many national challenges," he said.
McPhee also proposes that the government "look at the National Insurance Board as an existing structure that collects resources and develop a national pool to assist with the various national challenges and needs".
"This is a broad idea, and the experts can refine and develop it, but just as that entity is used in limited ways, the government can extend the usage of this vehicle to further develop our people. That to me is the role of the state."
Two weeks ago, McPhee told The Nassau Guardian that he organized a meeting between 'We Care' -- a coalition of web shop owners -- and a group of about 20 local pastors, including three members of the Bahamas Christian Council.
After the meeting, McPhee said the pastors had become 'sensitized' to the contributions numbers houses make to national development.
The comments placed McPhee on the receiving end of criticism from members of the Christian Council.
Several church leaders have also denounced the upcoming referendum and have urged people not to vote in favor of legalized gambling for Bahamians.
However, McPhee defended his actions and said he meant to start a public discourse on the issue not a war with the Christian Council.
"It was not my intent then or now to pick a fight with the Christian Council or other pastors that have since called me out on this issue," McPhee said. "But I would like to take this opportunity to call on all and sundry to have a real conversation on what is now before us."
McPhee told The Nassau Guardian in an earlier interview that he has sent needy people to the operators of numbers houses for help and that a numbers house sponsored his boat in regattas.
McPhee maintains that he does not support gambling.
Although former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham secured his long-held seat in the recent general election, Renardo Curry, the Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP) potential candidate for the North Abaco by-election, said yesterday he thinks Abaconians are ready to return the seat to the PLP, something they have not done in 25 years.
Curry said he thinks the Free National Movement's (FNM) candidate Greg Gomez is at a disadvantage in gathering support given his time spent abroad.
Gomez returned to The Bahamas last August, but previously lived in the United States for around 10 years, according to FNM Chairman Charles Maynard.
"The people are willing to give the opportunity now to the PLP and I feel in the end it will play out in my favor," Curry said. "I live among the people. I know their concerns after campaigning for over a year, and you would think I would be a better [representative]."
Ingraham secured his seat in the May 7 general election with 2,235 votes, beating
Curry, who had 1,856 votes.
In 2007, Ingraham won the North Abaco seat with 1,855 votes compared to the PLP's Fritz Bootle, who got 1,387 votes.
While the FNM ratified Gomez on Monday night, the PLP has not yet ratified a candidate for the by-election. But it is widely expected that Curry will run again on the PLP's ticket.
Asked whether Gomez would pose a serious challenge for the seat, Curry replied, "I can't say [whether] the people would consider. [They may choose] to stick with the FNM.
"I don't know. I understand Mr. Ingraham...is actively involved behind the scenes. We know that it's not just going to be Gomez we have to deal with, but also Mr. Ingraham."
With fewer than 400 votes between Ingraham and Curry, PLPs believe he has a strong chance of winning the seat.
Curry said the difference in votes is a reflection of his support, which he said has increased since then.
He said after putting in the groundwork and his recent performance against Ingraham, he hopes the PLP will push him forward.
Prime Minister Perry Christie, who spoke to reporters outside Cabinet yesterday, said that while he thinks Curry is the party's choice, the PLP's candidates committee will meet later this week to deliberate, and an official announcement will follow shortly after.
"I would have thought Mr. Curry was going to be our candidate so we could cut to the quick on that, but it's a process we have to go through and I'm not sure whether anyone else has applied," he said.
"It would seem to me that he would have a distinct advantage over any other candidate."
Curry said he plans to place emphasis on job creation programs through central and local government projects, which would include the establishment of a job placement program for college graduates; a technical learning institution such as BTVI on Abaco, and he also plans to support National Health Insurance.
Curry said he will return to Abaco on Friday to continue campaigning, and expects PLP officials to join him on the ground in the coming weeks.
"Obviously we are going to contest the by-election and we're going to try to say to the people of Abaco who are in the North Abaco constituency, that it is best for them to have our man elected," Christie added.
A by-election must be held within 60 days of Ingraham's resignation, which takes effect on August 31.
Ingraham is expected to make a farewell speech in Parliament today.
He was elected MP for the constituency eight consecutive times -- once as an independent, twice as a PLP and five times as an FNM.
Ingraham observed his 35th anniversary as an MP last Thursday, the day he handed in his resignation letter to Speaker of the House of Assembly Dr. Kendal Major.
Advertising could make the difference between a business failing or succeeding. And it's with this premise in mind that one local company has hit the streets and invested tens of thousands just to ensure its clientele receives the right exposure.
Opening its doors in 2008, Bahamas Outdoor Media Ltd. is a company that specializes in outdoor advertising.
In this week's edition of 'Da Plunge', Demalus Curry, the company's president, revealed that Bahamas Outdoor Media Ltd. was created with the intent of providing customers with another form of direct advertising.
"We were looking at non-traditional ways to help businesses expose themselves, looking for new advertising locations and assisting customers with strategically placing their ads. We also look at directly targeting their
clientele, versus advertising to the masses in other media forms. Our company provides a better direct advertising approach," according to Curry.
The president noted that he has pumped close to $80,000 into the business, but admits it's been a worthwhile investment because business has been promising so far.
"Over the years, customers have told us that their businesses have been impacted tremendously as a result of our services. Some companies have even cut back advertising because of our direct approach," he shared. "We have customers who have actually placed advertisements in the hospitals, especially the pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Our clients can place ads in hospitals, the airport and bus shelters."
The company's chief shared with Guardian Business that he has four employees including himself, his wife, an account executive and a graphic designer.
He also revealed that Bahamas Outdoor Media Ltd. recently launched its 'walking billboard' service. It's a service that he believes will be most beneficial in the downtown area.
"Our approach at reaching consumers is different in that we are targeting impulse buys and awareness with the use of our unique advertising medium, the walking billboard. If you use our advertising billboards with your promotion, you have the best chance at gaining customers right now as we target by impulse," Curry explained. "We want to be able to give our clients another means of targeting their customers. The main strategy behind it is for it to be used in the downtown area and at promotional events where companies may have a hard time targeting persons.
"For example, if you are talking about some place like the Fish Fry, there is no form of advertising other than Kalik ads or companies that do the wraps on the buildings. With our initiative, companies will be able to penetrate certain areas in the country to actually target customers."
While Curry hopes to be the first choice in advertising for companies one day, in the meantime he said there are a number of projects that he and his team are currently working on.
"If a company decides its wants to try a new or old form of advertising, we want to be a part of that decision making process. We have a few more projects that we are working on, where we are awaiting the necessary government approvals in order for us to launch those specific projects," he added.
Construction on the $14 million mini-hospital in Exuma is nearly 25 percent complete, Guardian Business can confirm.
In April, The National Insurance Board and Reef Construction Company Ltd. signed a contract for the construction of the community hospital. At that time, construction was estimated to take approximately 60 weeks.
Vernon Wells, owner of Reef Construction, shared with Guardian Business that the project is on time and on budget.
He is hoping that the mini-hospital will be completed by next June, as outlined in the contract.
"As it stands now, we are still on time and on budget. We are shooting for next June. That's our contract date. If we can get it done before, we would love for that to happen but we are confident that it can be done in time," he explained. "We have been on-site since late April and we have just been put on the first section of roofing and sheeting on the western side. So we are moving along pretty good, despite the challenges we are having with the labor force. It's been difficult but we have been able to make reasonable progress."
However, Wells noted that the most challenging part of the construction process has been finding skilled labor in Exuma to assist with the project, as building a hospital requires intense detail work.
"At this point, the labor force has been a bit weak. Building a hospital is a little bit more intense as far as detail work is concerned on the inside. The shell of the building is not difficult, that's always the easiest part to put up. It's finishing the inside work that takes the time. Hopefully, we will get to that part in another couple of months," he said.
Reef Construction's chief confirmed to Guardian Business that anywhere from 60 to 75 people have been working on the project so far on any given day. To date, Wells pointed out that approximately 20 percent of the funds have been spent on the hospital's construction.
The 30,000 square foot mini hospital will be outfitted with 10 beds, an operating table, a dental facility, physiotherapy, a morgue and an emergency and trauma area.
"I think the Exumians should be quite proud of it when it's finished. I am really anxious to get it done but Exuma right now only has a clinic which is very limited in its offerings," Wells added.
The island's chief councilor Godfrey Gray recently told Guardian Business that Exuma is in desperate need of better facilities that reflect the modern development that is being experienced on that island, as the current healthcare facilities are extremely inadequate.
"The upgrades are urgently needed because we have been without proper facilities for a very long time. The medical facilities are extremely inadequate, especially when you consider the type of resorts that we have on the island like Sandals," Gray said.
A recent downgrade of Family Guardian Insurance Company is the result of a "one-size-fits-all" approach, says the president of the firm's parent company Famguard Corporation Limited, as the standards of the U.S. economy are not necessary "in sync" with the situation in The Bahamas.
"The focus on mortgage loans, we felt, was out of sync with this market. Our loan concentration has actually improved when we had a rating of 'A-'," said Patricia Hermanns.
A.M Best, the top rating agency, downgraded Family Guardian by revising its financial strength from "A-" to "B++", or from excellent to good. Its issuer rating also fell down a notch. However, the rating agency has now classified the overall outlook from negative to stable.
The top executive at Famguard told Guardian Business that the BISX-listed firm's delinquency rate within the mortgage portfolio is in good standing at 7 percent, which is well below the national average of 13 percent.
Hermanns said it is unclear on what basis A.M Best focused so heavily on mortgage loans. In The Bahamas, she said, mortgage loans are often administered on a more intimate, individual basis.
This country does not have the same kind of experience as North America, she explained.
Hermanns noted that A.M Best claimed that Family Guardian's growth opportunities are limited, and yet at the same time, the rating agency acknowledged that it had achieved meaningful growth despite the harsh economic conditions.
In fact, Family Guardian recorded growth in premium income, and over the past five years achieved an annual rate of premium growth of 13 percent.
Eva Sverdlova, a senior financial analyst at A.M. Best, explained to Guardian Business from New Jersey that the limited investment market, combined with a relatively sluggish economy, could not be ignored.
Pointing out that Family Guardian's financials "are not poor", macro economic factors nevertheless placed the firm at risk, and conditions are not getting any better.
"The prolonged exposure to these risks contributed to the downgrade. It is part of a perfect storm that forced us to make that step," according to Sverdlova.
When asked if other companies in The Bahamas should be wary of a downgrade, the senior analyst said: "Probably not this year".
"I can't say for sure. There could be rating changes next year, when the annual rating comes about. It will depend mostly on the economic conditions, and the fact that in June of last year you had the downgrade to the economy. That also didn't help Family Guardian."
The A.M Best senior analyst highlighted that, for now, the insurance industry as a whole enjoys a stable outlook. The ratings are considered global, she noted, and a person looking at a Bahamian rating in the U.S. should expect it to be at the same level and standards.
While exposure in the mortgage portfolio was a strong reason for the downgrade, Sverdlova further explained that A.M. Best "does not look positively" on any concentration of assets. It noted overall performance poses a challenge to the longer-term financial results and growth opportunities.
Famguard, the parent company, was issued a rating of stable by A.M Best.
Authoritative, and easy to read, the newly released The Bahamas Investor magazine contains something for everyone - from Bahamian professionals to foreign investors and wealth managers.
With the needs and wants of foreign investors and wealth management practitioners at the top of its editorial agenda, the biannual magazine focuses on offshore wealth management strategies, opportunities for direct investment and the lifestyle advantages available in The Bahamas.
Produced by Etienne Dupuch Jr Publications, The Bahamas Investor has the perfect mix of industry analysis and human interest.
A great promotional tool for the government and the private sector, The Bahamas Investor is solely focused on The Bahamas, its advantages and opportunities in the fields of investment and financial services.
This issue's cover story shines the spotlight on one of the upcoming stars of financial services in The Bahamas, Aliya Allen, the newly appointed managing director and chief executive officer of the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB). Assuming the position at the beginning of the year, the 34-year-old is charged with promoting the nation's second largest industry as the offshore financial jurisdiction of choice. Given the competitive environment, it's a formidable task, but Allen says she is prepared to put in the "legwork" needed to raise the jurisdiction's visibility on the international stage.
Other key interviews in this issue include question and answer sessions with UBS' Wealth Management Division Chief Executive Officer Ju?rg Zeltner and Michele Fields, the newly appointed superintendent of the Insurance Commission of The Bahamas, as well as a profile of Cheryl Bazard, founding president of the Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers (BACO).
Heading the Investment section of this issue is the Bimini Bay Resort and Marina, which is poised to expand further with the groundbreaking of the neighboring luxury residential community Rockwell Island Beach Resorts.
The developer behind Bimini's north island renaissance is RAV Bahamas, which has joined forces with international property management company RockResorts.
RockResorts, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts Inc (NYSE: MTN), was originally created in 1956 by Laurance Rockefeller. The brand now includes 27 properties and hotels spanning six countries. With such resort management expertise backing the project, Rockwell Island Beach Resorts could well help put Bimini on the map as a premier destination for high-end luxury island living.
This issue also carries a special real estate supplement, Island Living, which has a wealth of information for investors looking to buy property in the island paradise and a 32-page Legal Directory-a vital resource for anyone doing business in the jurisdiction. There is also a special section on Grand Bahama in this issue.
Total revenue fell in the first quarter of this year by $85.3 million, or 19 percent, led by a marked decline in tax receipts and non-trade stamp tax.
The disclosure, included in the Central Bank's Quarterly Economic Review, reveals that government budgetary operations recorded a deficit of $74.7 million. Tax receipts, accounting for the lion's share of total revenue collections, dropped by more than 22 percent, or $94.7 million. The report further stated that non-trade stamp taxes were slashed by half to $39 million. It explained that the sale of an oil company accounted for an usual high boost in revenue last year for this category.
The fall in revenue was also felt in selective taxes on services, declining 36.9 percent, or $8.1 million. Departure tax receipts dropped 7.2 percent, or $2.2 million.
Meanwhile, as revenue dropped, expenditures were on the rise.
"Current spending, which accounted for 85.4 percent of total outlays, grew by 2.9 percent to $375 million, and capital expenditures rose by 14.6 percent to $53.5 million," the report noted. "However, net lending to public corporations declined by 28.4 percent to $10.5 million."
The spike in current outlays was fueled primarily by higher tourism and transportation-led expenditures, the report noted. Capital expenditure gains came from the government's ongoing infrastructure development program, such as the road works.
The silver lining came in the form of consumption related to spending, which showed growth of 6.5 percent, or $14.3 million.
In its overall assessment, the Central Bank said the Bahamian economy continued to grow at a modest pace. It highlighted poor employment conditions as a key ongoing challenge, and rising prices and inflation are also putting on strain on the economy.
That said, the report revealed considerable progress in the tourism sector.
Expanded airlift, ongoing travel incentives and a recovery in group business made for a relatively successful first quarter in the sector.
"Overall tourism arrivals were up 10.8 percent to approximately 1.7 million," it stated.
While air arrivals took a big seven percent hit last year, the first quarter saw a promising recovery of 11.2%. The Family Islands specifically saw a similar gain of 3.3 percent in air arrivals.
In terms of construction, the first quarter showed robust large-scale foreign investments in the hotel sector, spurred by the ongoing Baha Mar project. Domestic private sector construction activity was "comparatively lackluster".
"Mortgage disbursements for new construction and repairs, as reported by domestic banks, insurance companies and the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation, were lower by 32.4 percent at $27.5 million, extending the prior year's 15.4 percent fall-off. In particular, residential activity contracted by 33.4 percent to $26.7 million, relative to last year's 2.8 percent decrease."
New mortgage commitments for buildings and repairs revealed that the sector is very much in recovery mode. Total commitments fell more than 44 percent, to 26 projects.
Commercial loan commitments also experienced a decline.
Turks and Caicos Islands - The Government is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Colin Heartwell as the new Chief Executive Officer for the Turks and Caicos Islands National Insurance Board. Mr Heartwell will begin his three year contract at the end of August.
Mr. Heartwell is a senior executive with two decades of business management experience in various areas of economic development. He has been a Director General of Western Economic Diversification Canada, overseeing an investment portfolio of more than $350 million, the inaugural CEO for TCInvest, attracting significant foreign ...
After suffering a difficult 2011, J.S. Johnson's consolidated net income declined once again, this time by 42.49 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.
Falling from $2.61 million to $1.506 million, consolidated net income fell partly due to a declining revenues stemming from a rough economy.
"The business is not making as much commission as last year, as a result of tough economic times. Insurance is often a business that suffers," said Jamaal Stubbs, senior analyst at CFAL.
"Insurance is called a valued expense, but it is often undervalued. When you trying to make ends meet, sometimes it gets cut."
Although premium income remained steady, net commissions and fees fell 28 percent in the first quarter, according to the BISX-listed company's report.
"Net claims incurred is trending back to normalcy and is down by 59 percent. This was partly offset by an increase in net unrealized losses on investments in securities; however, total expenses were down by 7 percent, a step in the right direction," the report added.
The "normalcy" in claims was returned, management said, chiefly due to last year's unusual high claims from Hurricane Irene and major fires.
The company said "good news" could be found in that all major classes of business recorded underwriting profits in the first quarter.
J.S. Johnson expressed hope the second quarter would yield better results, and that the BISX-listed firm can still achieve budge projections for the year.
Total assets as of March fell by nearly $9 million, spurred by declines in reinsurance recoveries and reinsurance premiums. Liabilities shrunk by 17.45 percent to $42.97 million.
Despite recent difficulties, J.S. Johnson is known for high dividend yields.
The BISX-listed firm is paying 313 basis points above the current market average. J.S. Johnson managed to maintain 2011 dividend levels despite recording a 25 percent net income drop that year. Its experience last year was not abnormal. Hurricane Irene caused widespread losses across the sector.
An almost $1.7 million increase in net claims accounted for J.S. Johnson's $2.4 million net income drop.
Also of note for the company is the retirement of Marvin V. Bethell, the long-standing managing director. He will remain on the board of directors.
A top rating agency has downgraded the Family Guardian Insurance Company.
A.M. Best Company made the determination yesterday, revising the BISX-listed firm's financial strength rating from "A-" to "B++", or from excellent to good. Its issuer credit rating also took a hit, falling from "a-" to "bbb+".
However, the rating agency has now classified the overall outlook from negative to stable.
The move, according to the rating agency, reflects Family Guardian's "high concentration in mortgage loans relative to its total equity and the continued delinquencies in its mortgage loan portfolio, which are attributable to the current weak economic
environment in The Bahamas".
A.M Best also noted some improvements at the firm, such as a decline in mortgage loans as a percentage of total investment assets as well as a percentage of total capital.
Indeed, according to Famguard Corporation Limited's first quarter results, the parent company recorded a 54.4 percent net income increase. Famguard was aided by a 7.9 percent dip in total policyholder benefits paid out, the report noted. Gross policyholder benefits dropped by 18.6 percent to $15.508 million, from $19.057 million the previous year.
Total benefits and expenses declined $26.751 million to $25.661 million year-on-year.
The rating agency also acknowledged a trend of improving results in Family Guardian's group health division. The firm has recorded growth in premium income, and over the past five years achieved an annual rate of premium growth of 13 percent.
"A.M. Best also notes that the company trends favorably when it comes to profitability and capital with consistent growth in stockholders' equity, despite dividend payments. Family Guardian's three core business segments - home service, financial services and group division led by BahamaHealth - provide business diversification and competitive advantages in a generally limited and mature marketplace," according to the rating agency.
Nevertheless, it is felt the overall performance poses a challenge to the longer-term financial results and growth opportunities.
Increased delinquency rates in the mortgage loan portfolio, adverse operating profitability and an overall deterioration of the Bahamian economic environment were cited as key factors that could result in negative rating actions for Family Guardian.
Famguard is now focused on its alliance with Aetna, a third party healthcare provider, for 2012 and 2013. The alliance is intended to boost the services for policyholders both domestically and abroad.
A.M. Best assigned an issuer credit rating of "bb+" to Famguard, with a stable outlook.