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The names of many of our public schools pay tribute to master teachers whose contributions to national development were extraordinary and critical. As the school year draws to a close, we should recall the contributions by educators such as Mabel Walker, L.N. Coakley, N.G.M. Major, Naomi Blatch, T.G. Glover, C.V. Bethel and others.
Today's teachers should draw inspiration from yesterday's masters. Indeed, there remain many fine teachers and administrators in our public schools. We salute them as well as dedicated professionals in the Ministry of Education.
There should be no illusions about the difficulties teachers face with student indiscipline in terms of work ethic and poor behavior by many students. Add to this lack of parental support for teachers, and one may get a sense of what teachers face on a daily basis.
Within this context, we have high praise for those parents who are committed to improving public education through involvement in school boards, parent-teacher associations and other areas.
There are clear improvements in public education, including improved test scores. And the new Christie-led administration has promised to double the nation's investment in education and training.
Still, there is much work to be done. That work will have to be done by students hungry to learn and grow. But, that work also requires greater efforts and collaboration by parents and educators.
On other occasions we will address the parental role in quality education. Today, we again address the role of quality teaching. The title of headmaster or headmistress was often synonymous with head teacher. And, for good reason.
The idea was that the leader or principal of a school was not singularly a manager or administrator. One of the head's defining roles was to ensure the quality of teaching and instruction.
It is a role which should be stressed with equal measure to that of effective administration of our public schools. This will require that principals have other administrators and support staff assisting them in school administration.
More principals may need to spend more time in classrooms observing teacher performance. The system for mentoring new teachers as well as teachers needing improvement may also need to be boosted.
We also renew our call for more effective teacher evaluation. This includes more vigorous assessment measures which truly gauge subject proficiency, teaching methods and student performance relative to the quality of teaching.
When it comes to training programs, if run properly, they are an important social welfare principle which should discourage dependency on the state.
But principals must be put into action. As the government organizes ways to invest in training, we hope that it utilizes proper administrative oversight and checks so that it does not end up as a bureaucratic bungle, patronage program or cash machine for those who attempt to play the system.
Moreover, officials must be clear about intended outcomes so that the retraining efforts can be properly evaluated.
If significant numbers of participants can be retrained with new skills that leverage them to new employment or business opportunities, this will be a silver-lining in the current crises and a milestone in Bahamian social policy.
The founder of SureTrader.com, an online brokerage founded early this year, says the website is averaging 30,000 transactions each day, making it the largest dealer in the country.
Guy Gentile, the CEO, is also the creator of SpeedTrader.com, the U.S. online trading broker that earns $20 million per year in revenue.
He told Guardian Business that his foray into The Bahamas "keeps growing", and has got to the point where he can loosen the reigns. Gentile hired Phillip Dorsett, formerly of the Royal Bank of Canada, as his Bahamian president.
SureTrader.com currently employs eight Bahamians, and given the level of growth, Gentile expects to double that by the end of the year.
"We're up to more than 900 accounts now," he revealed. "We're averaging around 30,000 transactions per day. I would have to believe that would make us the biggest broker dealer on the island. It has grown through a lot of word of mouth. We reward clients that refer us to other clients. There is an incentive to get new business. That is what has been working for us."
The brokerage is now in the process of moving from its 700-square-foot office in the British American Financial Center, off Bay Street, and shifting over to a 4,000-square-foot layout in the Elizabeth on Bay complex.
The move, he said, represents an additional $200,000 investment.
Catering mostly to international clients, SureTrader.com removes some of the regulations governing traders in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. It is not subject to the Pattern Day Trader Rule, which prevents investors with less than $25,000 from performing more than three trades in any five-day rolling period.
The company also offers a wider margin of leverage to clients, giving someone with $5,000 far more buying power.
"I think the current client base will be doubled by the end of the year. I hit the ground running. I don't think there are too many people coming to the island with a brand new concept that has never been tested. There is nothing like this in The Bahamas," according to Gentile.
Experience with setting up online brokerages in the U.S. helped tremendously, he explained, and creating synergies between them reduced overhead and the resources required. Gentile told Guardian Business that the brokerage here in The Bahamas is already well into the black.
He is already eyeing his next business venture, and considering a similar business model for another Caribbean nation.
"Luckily the business is in a position where it has generated decent revenue and profits. I can pay for its expansion. It doesn't have to come out of pocket," he added.
Gentile is also thinking about an expansion into wealth management, noting that The Bahamas and its financial services industry could be poised for greater international exposure.
He speculated SureTrader.com should generate a return on his investment of up to 500 percent in the first 12 months.
After a nearly month-long whirlwind tour of Asia, Baha Mar has partnered with some of the world's most elite hotels and hired a team of real estate agents ahead of the resort's condominiums going on sale to international investors early in the new year.
The Baha Mar Collection has officially added the likes of Dorchester Hotel Group and The Jumeirah Group - alliances that add major cache to the product.
Richard English, senior vice president in charge of sales and marketing at Baha Mar, said the 313 luxurious residences will go on sale in February, making these partnerships essential to success.
"The Dorcester Hotel Group is known for the Bel Air Hotel and Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and the Dorcester in London, among others," he told Guardian Business. "The Jumeirah Group, which includes the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, has also signed on. We continue to bring on brands of this caliber. During my 25-day trip we also got Raffles in Singapore, hotels under the Shangri-La banner and the Mandarin in Hong Kong."
The private properties at Baha Mar, ranging in price from $1.2 million for a one-bedroom apartment to a $6 million, four-bedroom villa on the beach, will be spread out through the Grand Hyatt, Rosewood, Mondrian and Casino hotels, each bringing with it a distinct feel and flavor.
English pointed out that the Asian tour was especially important to the project given its ties with the Export-Import Bank of China, which is financing the $2.6 billion resort, and The China State Construction Engineering Corporation that is now spearheading its construction.
The hope is especially robust sales will be realized in this area.
By signing on these hotels, the result is the Baha Mar Collection. In essence, owners of the residents have the ability to "cash in" time at the property for stays and experiences at a list of destinations around the world.
In tandem with the hotel signings, English said eight real estate agencies have signed on as partners to help move the properties once they go on sale.
Three of these agents are in China - Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
"The Asian market is key for us," he said.
"But there are also representatives in other countries, such as the UK, U.S., Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. We are leveraging all of these estate agents around the world."
English anticipated there would be as many as 12 agencies working on the Baha Mar Collection's behalf before the properties go on the market.
Local buyers won't have access to the properties until summer 2012, with occupancy expected when the resort is completed in December 2014.
Meanwhile, shortly after the Asian tour, English and his team attended the World Travel Market in London - one of the largest of its kind in the world.
"Most of the show includes country pavillions, so we had Trinidad on one side and Argentina on the other. To my knowledge, Baha Mar was the only booth devoted to one individual project. In terms of brand exposure destination marketing it was very important. When it comes to selling the residences, the UK is another key market," he explained.
Although the resort itself is expected to have a dramatic impact on the tourism scene, the introduction of 313 luxurious residences to international investors will also throw a curve ball into the Nassau property scene, according to Patty Birch, the president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association.
In an earlier interview, she told Guardian Business that the Baha Mar Collection was a good idea, simply because there are few elite properties on the island of this nature.
"There aren't 700 lots in Baker's Bay, and there aren't 900 in Albany," she said.
"When you look at high-end developments here, there aren't a large portion of them on the market."
That said, Birch felt the Baha Mar residences must reconcile the fact that high-end buyers may want a larger property, rather than a resort or hotel-orientated environment.
English said the idea of the Baha Mar Collection was to not just offer a place to live, but provide a flexibility investment whereby clients can stay elsewhere in the world or use it as an asset for renting.
"We want to give that alternative to stay in their unit, giving it both luxury, elegance and flexibility," he said.
Caribbean governments' focus on crime has recently taken on increased urgency. Pressures at home from previously silent populations and visitors and investors alike noting crime as a factor in deciding where they go, makes the issue one that can no longer be ignored.
While many try to blame crime levels on the deportation of criminals from North America and the U.K., the reality is probably closer to home - the vaunted social fabric of Caribbean countries is frayed.
Urbanization and the loss of social and familial community linkages, it is argued by some, are the problems. This combined with underemployment among the youth and a lack of programs that provide skills training for the jobs that are available are also factors, leaving many increasingly dependent on an informal job market that offers little in terms of a sustainable future.
Weak legal systems, which encourage a sense of impunity by bad actors, are not helpful, and weak border controls that facilitate the inter-island movement of drugs and small arms allow for negative inputs. The use of the region as a hub for illicit traffic of drugs to the U.S. further strains efforts of governments to protect themselves and their vulnerable populations.
In terms of solutions, an increased focus on community development and outreach programs from both the political and corporate elite can help mitigate against losing a generation exposed to limited options for a productive and legal future. That said, corporate social responsibility programming is not yet a fully understood and developed concept in the Caribbean. Finally, adaptation of the traditional school curricula to one that focuses attention on programs that correspond to current needs can be positive.
The above, combined with community policing initiatives that position trained and trusted law enforcement personnel in host communities, can serve to ensure that fringe populations feel less divorced from upscale and often enclave centers. An improved and efficient legal system that can leverage social initiatives to train and assist first-time offenders can also address recidivism concerns. Introduction of a restorative justice system (successfully implemented in some countries), where it does not exist in the Caribbean, may be helpful in this regard.
An interconnected Caribbean region means increased movement of people and goods. The effective sharing of information on crime, people linked to crime and the movement of guns and drugs, is fundamental for any regional success.
A sharing of best practices in this arena and the support of these efforts by donor countries such as the United States is critical. Further to the U.S.-Caribbean partnership on addressing crime, a focus by both partners on the development of modular programs that build on past successes is key; as is the ability of initiatives to survive changes in administrations.
In closing, the Caribbean must become a stronger advocate for its interests and needs, articulating plans for implementation rather than waiting for the delivery of fully formed solutions from the U.S.
o The above was a response to recent statements on crime and regional dysfunction in addressing the issue by Trinidad and Tobago Minister of National Security Jack Warner. Anton Edmunds is the president of The Edmunds Group International, LLC. (TEG) - a Washington, DC headquartered boutique consulting firm with affiliated offices in Miami and the Caribbean. More information on the group can be found at www.theedmundsgroup.com. Printed with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
Kingston, Jamaica; Jamaica and the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival will once again receive another boost as Flow leverages its broadband technology and partnership with international content provider HBO to help create multiple avenues for exposure.
With the partnership with HBO, viewers across the Caribbean and Latin America will be treated to another Special feature showcasing Jamaica and the 2012 Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, a repeat of the highly successful initiative that was such a key element of the previous year's festival.
Flow's technology will also facilitate live streaming to various countries across the globe, OnDemand programmes on its Flow OnDemand platform, and a local feature on Flow TV...
Buckeye Partners has completed the major purchase of a marine terminal facility in New York Harbor, creating an essential conduit to large-scale operations in The Bahamas.
Listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the parent company of the Bahamas Oil Refining Company (BORCO) bought the 250 acres in Perth Amboy, New Jersey for $260 million in cash. The high-profile acquisition, including four million barrels of storage, four docks, and pipeline, rail and truck access, increases the company's total liquid petroleum storage capacity by six percent, bringing the total up to 68 million barrels.
BORCO, Buckeye's flagship marine terminal in Grand Bahama, stands to directly benefit from the ambitious expansion.
"This will provide Buckeye with direct access to international and U.S. Gulf Coast petroleum products imports," said Clark C. Smith, the firm's president and chief executive officer. "The facility can also serve as a link between our domestic assets and our BORCO facility in The Bahamas. We believe that its multi-modal connectivity, combined with our planned modernization activities, will strength our ability to provide customers with flexible logistics services, as well as to satisfy market demand for the handling and upgrading of multiple commodities, including crude oil and refined products."
The acquisition, in the works for months, is expected to represent hundreds of millions in future growth over the next several years. Buckeye closed the deal on Friday with Chevron U.S.A. Inc.
The latter will continue as a significant customer at the terminal under a multi-year storage commitment, according to a statement from Buckeye.
It further noted that the new Perth Amboy facility has "significant undeveloped land" for future expansion.
Certainly, BORCO in particular is now undergoing a notable amount of transformation of its own. Back in May, Buckeye announced it would pour $350 to $400 million into a "near term" expansion project in Grand Bahama and provide an additional 7.9 million barrels of additional storage capacity.
Guardian Business understands that phase one of this initiative has already begun.
That said, BORCO still has its fair share of problems ahead, most notably thanks to a recent downgrade by Moody's Investor Service. While the rating agency affirmed Buckeye's long-term senior unsecured debt, it changed the outlook to negative from stable.
According to Gretchen French, Moody's vice president and senior analyst, the negative outlook reflects the company's high financial leverage "and concerns that leverage could remain elevated through at least 2012".
The report, obtained by Guardian Business, notes the acquisitions were paid at high multiples, with lagging operating performance at BORCO.
"While large acquisitions such as BORCO and the pending Perth Amboy transaction have and are expected to benefit Buckeye's size and diversification, execution, financing and event risk have increased," the Moody's report noted. "In addition, while acquisitions have been financed with a reasonable equity component, Buckeye has paid high multiples in order to grow, pressuring financial metrics."
Moody's anticipated that Buckeye will indeed be spending even more money in the coming years as it invests further into the new network.
The rating agency predicted that leverage in the latter half of 2012 should improve due to BORCO's ongoing operations and improved market conditions. Leverage risk is not expected to be reduced significantly though until 2013, the report stated.
Much of the company's future rests with BORCO. Moody's felt there is "execution risk" related to the paramount importance of BORCO and the now consummated acquisition of Perth Amboy.
All was not gloomy in Moody's assessment, however.
It cited the company's relatively lower business risk and stronger stability of cash flow compared to its peers as reasons for optimism going forward. Management has a solid track record of issuing equity, the report said, and direct exposure to commodity prices and material volume variations are minimal due to the stability of its product pipeline and terminating assets.
"The outlook could be stabilized if a sustained, improving level of financial leverage is achieved. Success in decreasing leverage could result in cash flows from growth prospects coming on stream in a timely manner and reasonable in lien with expectations," according to Moody's.
There is the ordinary type of hypocrisy. Then there is the Perry Gladstone Christie brand of hypocrisy. The man who said he would swim through vomit to return to the PLP has always been more interested in getting power than moving the country forward, always more interested in profiling than working.
Christie was useless as prime minister. But he is desperate to get back into office because he has no legacy. Even if Hubert Ingraham left office tomorrow he has a legacy of which he can be proud. But if Christie does not win again he will go down in history as an utterly failed prime minister and leader. So, he will say all kinds of things to win.
Since the onset of the 2008 worldwide economic recession, Christie has pretended that the impact of the downturn is the fault of Ingraham. Now all of a sudden Christie admits the impact of the downturn on The Bahamas. But apparently he has only done so to cover up his grand scale incompetence and perhaps his biggest blunder in office.
We now know that Christie and his incompetent government allowed Kerzner International to leverage its Bahamas operations to build its megaresort in Dubai. This is something Ingraham says he would never have done. Now that Kerzner International is having debt problems, Perry Christie, is blaming the Ingraham government for what he and the PLP messed up on.
As usual Ingraham will have to clean up the Perry Christie mess. Christie should keep his mouth closed and say thank God for Hubert Ingraham. Because God knows if it was left to the PLP there would have been no Atlantis in the first place. Let's not forget that a number of senior PLPs bitterly opposed the Atlantis development.
Not only is Perry Christie unable get big projects like Baha Mar going in the first place. Whatever he gets his hands on he wrecks. But to hide his incompetence and failures he is happy to blame others for his mistakes. The buck never stops with Christie. It's always someone else's fault. This is not the stuff of which real leaders are made.
Perry Christie says he would be happy to offer his help with international investors on the Kerzner matter. If Bahamians don't laugh at this, they'll have to weep. If Ingraham sees Christie coming to offer advice, he should run, not walk away from the most incompetent prime minister in Bahamian history. At least Christie is good for a good laugh, if nothing else.
With the financing secured, the search has drawn you to the property of your dreams - what now?
The next step on the boardwalk to home ownership is, of course, a home inspection. This allows professionals to check the creaks and crevices of a particular property to ensure it's more of a diamond in the rough than a dud that will cost more than the initial investment.
The home or property must be inspected by a qualified home inspector to ensure you're not buying someone else's problems, so to speak. Engineers, architects or companies can inspect the home from the foundation, to roof, plumbing and electrical wiring. In essence, it's a visual inspection of a home's structure and components to determine if everything is functioning as it should be.
If a problem is detected, the inspector will describe the problem and make the necessary recommendations to correct it. Before closing on a sale, an inspector's report should be reviewed and a list drawn up by the buyer of what corrections, if any, need to be addressed by the seller and presented to the real estate agent in a timely manner. A house inspection is not meant to be a tool for re-negotiation on a sale, but based on what's uncovered in an inspection, it can easily become one.
For instance, no one wants to purchase their dream home only to realize that the roof leaks and needs to be repaired immediately. An inspection conducted before the purchase would highlight the state of the roof and lead to recommendations for necessary upgrades. All homes, even newly constructed ones, have problems and every problem has a solution; home inspections help highlight these problems, and determine whether the buyer or seller will rectify them.
Purchasing a home is a major undertaking by the buyer and due diligence must be done. When simply buying a bed or couch, most people sit on it to test it out - why not have someone test key areas of a proposed home?
One thing to note: an inspection does not protect against failures, such as a faulty water system. It's also not an appraisal to determine property value or a code inspection. Again, it places the buyer in a position to clearly know the soundness of the structure's integrity and if upgrades or replacements need to be performed, it provides guidance for leverage in determining who should foot the bill. There is nothing better or more advisable than being prepared; it could mean the difference between minor property alterations or major, pocket-denting repairs. Performing due diligence is priceless.
o William Wong is president of Wong and Associates Realty. He was also a two-term president of The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and The Bahamas Real Estate Association. Questions or comments can be emailed to William@wongsrealty.com
With the multi-billion dollar Baha Mar project set to open its doors later this year, the Ministry of Financial Services is eyeing high-net-worth Asians in an effort to strengthen the country's investment funds business.Following a trip to New York last week, Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder confirmed to Guardian Business that he met with a prominent law firm that represents a number of these individuals and which is looking at the possibility of operating in The Bahamas, given the proximity to the United States. He pointed out how "a lot" of investment funds are managed from northeastern cities like New York and Connecticut."That's certainly something that we're committed to and look forward to developing. The Bahamas could be a platform for many of [his] clientele from China to conduct business and manage their assets," he said."Given the exposure that Baha Mar is giving The Bahamas, it presents us with an opportunity that we leverage, using those assets to further develop the financial services in China, especially with the cooperation of the senior practitioners, along with their legal and investment advisors who primarily may be in New York."While not revealing who the firm is, he did say that it is world-renowned and multinational. In the meantime, Pinder said he continues to encourage industry stakeholders to look to the U.S. to advance their business, whether it's investment funds or wealth management."I had an opportunity to speak with some senior practitioners that have a number of high-net-worth Asian/Chinese clientele who are very interested in working closely with The Bahamas to provide a platform to attract Asian persons to The Bahamas, not only to utilize the country to manage their assets but to even move to The Bahamas and be able to base some of their business activities from within The Bahamas," he explained."While in New York, I took the opportunity to set up a number of meetings with some attorneys and other relevant financial services practitioners. And it was very encouraging to know that these practitioners wanted to work in partnership with The Bahamas to develop products and platforms to attract high net worth Chinese persons to The Bahamas."Pinder also addressed the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists' International Financial Crime Conference & Exhibition at the Marriott Marquis while in New York. That two-day conference ended last Friday.
An online brokerage launched early last year is reporting more than 100,000 equity transactions each day, a figure that far exceeds all other Bahamian firms combined.
SureTrader.com, listed with the Securities Exchange of The Bahamas since January 2012, has increased its staff to eight Bahamians and filled out its 4,000-square-foot office at Elizabeth on Bay. The firm plans to hire up to 20 more people by the end of this year and currently seeks professional Bahamians amid expansion, according to its founder Guy Gentile.
The parent company, Swiss American Securities Limited, is also the founder of SpeedTrader.com, a U.S. online trading broker with around $20 million in annual revenue.
Gentile told Guardian Business that SureTrader.com is poised to earn $25 million in annual revenue in 2013.
"What gives us our edge is superior trading technology and a New York business approach," he said. "I operate a lean aggressive staff that has a strong desire to be the best. Not only the best in The Bahamas, but the best in the world."
Gentile added that SureTrader.com hopes to open 5,000 new accounts in 2013 after opening 2,000 in 2012. The firm wants to become the largest brokerage in The Bahamas by revenue in 2014.
"We have given ourselves an advantage by offering extended margin leverage of 6-1 compared to 3-1 in Canada and 4-1 in the U.S. We have the largest short list in the industry, we allow shorting in penny stocks, and you can fund an account easily with a credit card. There are no restrictions on day trading," he added.
Later this year, Swiss American plans to widen its project offerings through Canadian stock and options, Gentile said, and by connecting VISA debit cards to the accounts.
Following a staffing boost, the firm also wants to offer a customer service line and eventually go to 24 hours after adding European trading. The company has recently aligned itself with RBC Royal Bank, Interactive Brokers, ETC Clearing and DAS Trader.
Gentile, a U.S. investor, remains the largest tenant in the Elizabeth on Bay plaza, located on East Bay Street. He has invested approximately $400,000 into the new SureTrader.com office, with an additional $1.5 million or so in Sur Sushi.
The latter is expected to open in the coming weeks.
Back in December, Gentile reported that the restaurant has received more than 500 applications. Only 45 Bahamians will be hired for the trendy, new restaurant. Blu, formerly located across from the up-and-coming Sur Sushi, closed its doors late last year and put dozens of Bahamians out of work. Investors hope Gentile and his business ventures will help re-energize the plaza and East Bay Street.