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The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) is planning an expansion of its $6 million submarine fiber optic cables, Guardian Business can confirm -- a move set to maximize revenue at the company.
"We are going to make a significant investment into expanding the capacity of the Miami cable," BTC chief executive Geoff Houston confirmed. "And we're looking at investing on expanding the capacity of the Haiti cable.
"We expect to be able to do both of those this year and that will provide new sources of revenue opportunity for the company."
In 2006, BTC ran a submarine fiber optic cable to the expanding Haiti market through a partnership arrangement with phone company Teleco D'Haiti, transmitting data traffic out of Haiti into The Bahamas and from The Bahamas to the U.S. The Bahamas Domestic Submarine Network is a high-tech, underwater highway that BTC had a lock on as the owner of the only cable of its kind terminating in Haiti.
By all estimates as many as three million residents use cell phones in Haiti and getting communication in and out of the country has been key in the last several years.
Houston said BTC was in a good position to facilitate that communication.
"If you're in Haiti for example and you want to get off the island, you can come via our Haiti link into Miami and out," he explained to Guardian Business. "We would sell capacity to those carriers in Haiti and, similarly, carriers looking to get into Haiti, we would sell them capacity going the other way.
"So it's quite a significant opportunity, given that there aren't many others providing those services into Haiti, so the business is in a unique position to provide those services [and] we are just going to try and leverage that position more."
While he wouldn't provide a specific investment amount, Houston said it would definitely be a "few million." The determining factor would depend on the capacity of the new cables, which BTC is currently still trying to finalize.
The cable itself - which runs from Inagua to Haiti's holding point - was affected in 2010's deadly earthquake when the center that houses the operating equipment was damaged. Connectivity has since been restored.
Cable and Wireless Communications, which recently purchased 51 percent of BTC, outlined in its business plan intentions to maximize "opportunities of The Bahamas-Haiti cable link tapping into CWC's global carrier services business."
However, it won't be without competition. Digicel has tapped into that market and boasted around 500,000 customers in its first year, according to reports. Their customer base has grown to around 2.6 million customers in Haiti.
Those who want to understand the full scope of Hubert Ingraham's vision of a modern Bahamas, must look not only at what is happening in New Providence but also beyond. A good place to start is Abaco, the present-day, and circa 1947 to approximately 1964, the early years of the future Bahamian prime minister.
During his nearly 35 years as an MP, the member for North Abaco has had a singular vision for the development of all of Abaco. It is a uniquely Bahamian vision moulded by the geography of the largest archipelago in the Caribbean, with territory stretching approximately the same distance as from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago.
Among Mr. Ingraham's signature accomplishments is his transformation of the historic challenge of developing the far-flung Bahamas archipelago with its complex of developmental challenges, into a strategic strength. In so doing, he is making The Bahamas a model for small-island state development.
To do so, he realized that he had to act on multiple fronts, with limited resources, prioritizing initiatives and capital projects while leveraging the strategic assets of our history, geography and fiscal capacity to diversify the economy and provide greater long-term sustainability and social protections in a modern liberal state.
In this ambition, Abaco has been a grand experiment in small-island development. It has been a work in progress for many years, now reaching critical mass.
The prime minister's vision has its roots in his Abaco boyhood, which he has helped to transform from the Abaco of his youth. What he has done in the third largest island in the archipelago is a part of his long-term strategic plan for developing all of the major islands in our chain.
He has sought to ensure that each major island group, inclusive of various cays, has the critical infrastructure to become platforms for sustained development and a diversity of industries. Added to this vision was the introduction of local government so that Family Island residents have more say in running their own affairs and increased participation in decision-making on various local matters.
Mr. Ingraham's model of integral development includes public investment in power generation, water, roads, docks, ports, hospitals and clinics, schools et al., which will help to sustain population growth by attracting domestic as well as foreign direct investment and enticing new residents including Bahamian and non-Bahamian second home owners.
Those in Nassau who have enjoyed cable television and internet service since the inception of Cable Bahamas do not truly appreciate what cable service, which Mr. Ingraham's government introduced, means to Family Islanders.
Today, the owners of a bone-fishing lodge or charter boat service in Acklins or Andros may now advertise and have guests book online enabling them to better sustain their small businesses. They understand Mr. Ingraham's vision better than the critic pontificating on the prime minister's supposed "lack of vision" from the ease of both an arm chair and ready access to the internet.
The observation of former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur after visiting Abaco is instructive. Mr. Arthur, who knows well the challenge of developing a single island state, was impressed by the scale of development in Abaco alone.
Within two years of Mr. Ingraham becoming Prime Minister, Cooper's Town had a major clinic. The pace of development in Abaco has accelerated ever since, continuing to gather pace with an impressive array of public investments similar to the infrastructural works in New Providence.
Mr. Ingraham's delight in the Family Islands, and his enthusiasm for fishing, have made him an ardent environmentalist. In just 10 years he doubled the size of the national park system. He appreciates the need to balance development and conservation, one of several reasons he was appalled by the Great Mayaguana Land Giveaway by the former government.
Hubert Ingraham is a pragmatist, technocratic, not given to rhetorical flights of fancy. This has been a strength, as he has been typically careful to ensure that his rhetoric does not outstrip his ability to deliver on his promises.
U.S. President Richard Nixon famously observed that politicians campaign in poetry, but must govern in prose. The problem with one former Prime Minister is that he campaigns and governs in rhetorical flourishes rarely getting down to the prose and hard business of government. The difference between prose and poetry eludes another wannabe prime minister.
The downside for Mr. Ingraham is that more technocratic prose often lacks poetic flourish. This is why some suggest that he lacks vision as they prefer the frenzied rhetoric of a church revival. But those who mistake performance art for substantive vision in both religion and politics typically fail to appreciate the breadth of the Prime Minister's vision.
It is not only those who desire fanciful and syrupy rhetoric who fail to appreciate the scope of the Prime Minister's ambition to modernize The Bahamas.
There are also the inveterate Ingraham-haters with personal grudges who cannot separate their personal feelings from the Prime Minister's public performance, and political opponents who have a reason for their denials of his accomplishments. Then there are the intellectually slothful who revel in a "pox on both houses" mentality with regards to political analysis.
As the College of The Bahamas moves to university status, it may bolster its research efforts with more in-depth political analysis. One project may be an analysis of the Ingraham legacy. As Mr. Ingraham will leave a wide body of documents, public statements and accomplishments, he will prove a fascinating study in political leadership in The Bahamas in the closing decades of the 20th century and the early decades of the 21st.
One may disagree with Mr. Ingraham's style of governance and/or his positions on various issues. But to deny that he has a vision is akin to those conspiracy theorists and loons who still believe that Barack Obama is not an American citizen. Some will never be convinced despite the overwhelming evidence staring them in the face.
Thursday 8th November 2012 7:00 AM
HVS Chicos Hotel Investment Conference DAY 1 - THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8th, 2012 and DAY 2 - FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9th, 2012 Click HERE to see info on Day 2 7:00 am - 9:00 pm - REGISTRATION Grand Ballroom D 8:00 am - 8:30 am - NETWORKING BREAKFAST Grand Ballroom D 8:30 am - 9:45 am - GLOBAL, REGIONAL, CARIBBEAN, AND ECONOMIC OVERVIEW Grand Ballroom D Global Trends Stephen Rushmore, Jr, Chief Executive Officer & President - HVS Global Hospitality Services Global & Regional Hotel Performance Carter Wilson, Director - STR Analytics Overview of Caribbean Lodging Market Parris Jordan, Managing Director, Caribbean - HVS Global Hospitality Services Overview of Global Economy Dr. Avery Shenfeld, Managing Director & Chief Economist – CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank 9:45 am - 10:45 am – GENERAL SESSION Grand Ballroom D VIEW FROM THE TOP: INVESTMENT IN THE REGION Join our panel of Investors, owners and operators in a discussion of the major issues impacting the industry in the region today. The region has been impacted significantly over the past five years but we are starting to see recovery in the top line at least. But is this enough to get the investment and lending communities excited about the region again? What hurdles do we still need to get over? Where do these experts see opportunities? These experts will discuss what has attracted them to the region historically, the obstacles that the industry has been dealing with and how they are overcoming the impediments to successful operations, investment and development. They will discuss whether the challenges in the Caribbean region are significantly different than in other parts of the world or whether the same issues are present and what can be learned from the experience elsewhere. Finally, they will discuss how the industry within the region may evolve over the next few years and where their focus is. Moderator: David Larone, Director – PKF Consulting Panelists: David Brillembourg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer – Brilla Group Kenneth Blatt, Principal – Caribbean Property Group Dave Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer – Aimbridge Hospitality Michael Shindler, Executive Vice President of Hotels & Casinos – Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos 10:45 am - 11:00 am - NETWORKING COFFEE BREAK - SPONSOR EXHIBITS Foyer 11:00 am -12:00 pm – GENERAL SESSION Grand Ballroom D CARIBBEAN GONE GLOBAL - INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS Where did they come from and what do they want? In this important discussion comprised of experienced international investors representing various regions in the world, panelists will explain how perspective on the Caribbean has recently changed and appetite for Caribbean investment opportunity has consequently gone global. This discussion will examine how a variety of foreign family offices, institutions, lenders and emerging hotel brands have taken to the sand looking for opportunity to extend their reach into the recovering Caribbean region. Learn what they want and how they want it. Moderator: Bernard van der Lande, Managing Director and Senior Vice President – Hodges Ward Elliott Hotels Panelists: Pierre Charalambides, Founding Partner – Dolphin Capital Greg Rice, President and Founder – Solid Rock Advisors Jay Rosen, Vice President of Business Development – Davidson Hotels & Resorts Fausto Barba, Vice President of Finance and Development – Capella Hotel Group John Keith, Managing Partner – Caribe Hospitality 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm – BREAKOUT SESSION 1 A Grand Ballroom E DESTINATION MARKETING IN THE CARIBBEAN Join this prestigious panel of marketing and public relations professionals and reporters who will share insights and make recommendations for effective marketing techniques. This panel is geared toward the hotel operator and owner as well as anyone with an interest in tourism promotion for the Caribbean. Moderator: Leora Lanz, Managing Director - HVS Sales & Marketing Services Panelists: Gay Myers, Senior Editor, Mexico & Caribbean - Travel Weekly Laura Davidson, President and Founder - Laura Davidson Public Relations Gary Leopold, President and Chief Executive Officer - ISM Travel & Lifestyle Marketing Ed Watkins, Editor-in-Chief - Lodging Hospitality Simón B. Suárez, Chief Development Representative, Caribbean and Central America – Hilton Worldwide 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm – BREAKOUT SESSION 1 B Grand Ballroom F FINANCING A DEAL IN DIFFICULT TIMES The level of difficulty to finance hotel projects varies by region, project type and the sponsor’s track record. While construction financing remains difficult to obtain, funding for acquisitions appears to be loosening. Our panelists will discuss what pieces of the puzzle are needed to possibly make getting financing easier, the types of projects qualifying for debt, the current trends in financing terms and what the future holds on the financing front. Moderator: Jeff Higley, Vice President - STR Global Panelists: Lance Shaner, Chairman - Shaner Group Steve Carvell, Associate Dean - Cornell University, School Of Hotel Administration Peter Weiss, Director - Ackman-Ziff Real Estate Neil Bane, Senior Managing Director and Principal - Johnson Capital Sagar Desai, Director of Acquisitions & Development - Viceroy Hotel Group 1:00 pm - 1:45 pm - NETWORKING LUNCH Crowne Ballroom A Presentations from Task Force Leaders Announcement of 2013 CHICOS location from the host hotel and local Tourism Official. 1:45 pm - 2:45 pm - GENERAL SESSION Grand Ballroom D THE STATE OF THE GLOBAL GAMING SECTOR: PUTTING THE CARIBBEAN INTO CONTEXT What does the future hold for casino-style gaming in the Caribbean? In the broader “neighborhood” of Central and South America? How do these opportunities compare to those available in other gaming jurisdictions around the world? This panel will explore these questions and others, from the perspective of selected leaders with relevant experience operating and investing in casino-resort projects around the world – from Las Vegas to Asia to the Caribbean. Hear about how different regulatory regimes, infrastructure demands, capital structure difficulties, project returns and other key elements impact investment and operating decisions around the gaming world from a seasoned group of industry experts. Moderator: Adam Rosenberg, Managing Director, Global Head of Gaming – Goldman Sachs Panelists: Andrea Balkan, Managing Partner – Brookfield Real Estate Nicholas Hecker, Principal – Och-Ziff Real Estate Uri Clinton, General Counsel – Baha Mar Resorts 2:50 pm - 3:50 pm - GENERAL SESSION Grand Ballroom D CUBA VS. COLUMBIA INVESTMENT CLIMATES Who will be the next success story? While Cuba has been posted on the radar for so many years in anticipation of its long-awaited opening to foreign investment, Columbia is experiencing a genuine investment renaissance that has taken everyone by storm. Listen to this panel of savvy, market-specific investors debate the merits of each respective destination, focusing on the effects of transparency, rule of law, freedom of the capital markets, and graduation from age-old stereotypes as these Caribbean cousins compete for regional and international hotel investment. Moderator: Chad Meyerson, Director Global Sales – JetBlue Panelists: Jeremy Tang, Managing Director – Hemingway Capital Adam Cohen, Managing Director & Chief Operating Officer – Brilla Group Michael Register, Vice President of Development & Partner – Trust Hospitality Tim Ashby, Chief Executive Officer – Federal Regulatory Compliance Services, LLC 3:50 pm - 4:10 pm - NETWORKING COFFEE BREAK - SPONSOR EXHIBITS Foyer 4:10 pm - 5:10 pm – BREAKOUT SESSION 2 A Grand Ballroom E INNOVATE FOR INVESTMENT SUCCESS - OVERCOMING INVESTMENT CHALLENGES With the economy slowly turning around and foreign investors showing renewed interest in hospitality transactions, it is vital that new development projects are delivered successfully – which will in turn stimulate additional investment into the region. This panel discussion is intended to focus on critical implementation activities that are unique to the Caribbean region – and how governments, investors, and development teams can collaborate to conceive and deliver viable hospitality investments. The discussion is intended to be very practical – providing “real-world” guidance for developers based on the panelists’ extensive experience in development in the region (representing the views of Government, private developers, investors, and operators). Moderator: Kevin Goldstein, Director of Sustainability Services – HVS Global Hospitality Services Panelists: Patrick McCudden, Senior Vice President of Real Estate & Development – Hyatt International Patrick Freeman, Vice President, Real Estate and Development – Cisneros Group of Companies Mark Durliat, Chief Executive Officer and Principal – Grace Bay Resorts Vincent Vanderpool Wallace, Principal – Bedford Baker Group Amy Ironmonger, Associate – K&L Gates, LLP 4:10 pm - 5:10 pm – BREAKOUT SESSION 2 B Grand Ballroom F HOSPITALITY-DRIVEN MIXED USE RESORTS - PERSPECTIVES ON VARIOUS COMPONENTS A lively discussion of the hospitality driven mixed use model with an emphasis on several real estate components typically present within the model. The discussion will focus on these components from the perspective of physical facilities and issues, operating models, and ways to optimize cash flow and value. Moderator: John Lancet, Managing Director, Miami – HVS Global Hospitality Services Panelists: Neil Kolton, Director of Sales - Interval International Jonathan Nehmer, Principal - JN+A Design Alinio Azevedo, Director of Development - Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Nelson Parker, Head of Development, Americas - Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos German Rojas III Castillo, Senior Manager, Business Development - RCI 5:10 pm - 6:00 pm – BREAKOUT SESSION 3 A Grand Ballroom E OPERATIONS: MASTERING THE REBOUND In this highly interactive session we are looking at how operators and other stakeholders are maximizing gains as the Caribbean soars into recovery. Learn from industry experts their secrets to promoting destinations, leveraging opportunity, raising rates and keeping expenses in check. Moderator: Glenn Haussman, Managing Editor – Hotel Interactive Panelists: Nikheel Advani, Chief Operating Officer and Principal – Grace Bay Resorts Paul Burke, Chief Operating Officer – Kerzner International Honorable Haydn Hughes, Parliamentary Secretary of Tourism - Government of Anguilla Louis Alicea, Director of Development, Caribbean and Latin America – Wyndham Hotel Group Alejandro Acevedo, Vice President, Caribbean and Latin America – Marriott International 5:10 pm - 6:00 pm – BREAKOUT SESSION 3 B Grand Ballroom F OPPORTUNITIES, OPPORTUNITIES, OPPORTUNITIES Following four long years with stormy clouds due to the impact of the global economic recession, the silver lining is finally beginning to bring to the forefront some opportunities for investors with access to capital. Banks are emerging from the world of “pretend and extend” and are bringing some challenged properties to market; developers are taking a renewed look at stalled new builds; investors are getting tired of sitting on the sidelines and are looking actively for opportunities to reposition for the improving economy; and the existing hotels are exhibiting positive gains in RevPAR throughout the Caribbean. We look forward to discussing what form these opportunities take and some strategies to assist in bringing them to fruition. Investors, bring your wallets! Moderator: Cristina Lanao-Rossel, President - The BDC Group Panelists: Timothy Peck, Chairman – OBM International Roland Mouly, VP of Development, Caribbean, Mexico, Latin America, Americas – Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group Edgar Garin, Director of Franchise Development, Central & South America – La Quinta Inns & Suites Juan Morera, Deputy Director of Corporate Development – Grupo Posadas Fernando Fernandez, VP of Development, Americas – Sol Melia International Hotels 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm – COCKTAIL RECEPTION Cafe at The Great Hall of Waters - Royal Towers Lobby Click HERE to view there website
The government has approved the purchase of the One&Only Ocean Club by a New York-based industrial group owned by a Ukrainian-born billionaire, that will upgrade and expand the property in addition to other vacant land on Paradise Island.
Amidst a flurry of other announcements related to tourism development, Prime Minister Perry Christie has revealed that the Access Industries group, founded by Len Blavatnik, is to become the new owner of the key Paradise Island asset following negotiations with the government and owners Brookfield Real Estate Financial Partners.
His comments, made during the 2014/2015 budget communication in Parliament yesterday, confirm information revealed exclusively by Guardian Business that the resort was set to be acquired by a Ukrainian-born U.S. billionaire. Born in Odessa, Ukraine, Blavatnik is now a U.S. citizen and is ranked by Forbes magazine as the world's 39th richest person, with an estimated fortune of US$18.7 billion.
Access Industries' portfolio includes interests in natural resources and chemicals; media and telecommunications and real estate. It is the owner of the Warner Music Group and hotels in Florida, France and Argentina.
The prime minister suggested the sale should ensure the resort's position is further strengthened and more job opportunities are created.
Christie said: "The injection of additional capital into the upgrading and expansion of the Ocean Club by Access Industries not only assures further direct investment inflows into the Bahamas economy, but additional jobs, the positioning of the Ocean Club as the nation's premier ultra-luxury resort, and a partnership to leverage other economic expansion opportunities with a worldwide conglomerate."
Speaking of Atlantis, Christie said that its owners, Brookfield Real Estate Financial Partners, are "aggressively pursuing plans for refinancing, refurbishment, and adding other features, which will further enhance its premier position in the marketplace".
Christie said all of these plans will be implemented during this current budget cycle.
"These initiatives will not only strengthen the position of the property, but also positively impact job creation, both at the resort and within the local economy," he added of Atlantis' plans.
Noting also ongoing development at Baha Mar, scheduled to open in December, and Albany, where a $140 million expansion is underway, Christie said that "several substantial proposals" are being considered for the South Ocean Beach Resort property.
"Each of the proposals envisions a mixed resort/residential/casino/complex which would significantly expand the local product offerings and brands. I remain optimistic about an early successful outcome for South Ocean Beach Resort, which together with Baha Mar, Albany, the Holowesko Lyford Cay hotel and the thriving commercial and private residential developments in western New Providence, will have an enormous impact on our economy starting in the next few months and continuing for the next decade."
Christie also touched on plans for the renewal of downtown Nassau, telling parliamentarians that in the coming months "much progress will be made towards the rejuvenation of the area into "a vibrant, attractive and exciting waterfront city, through several initiatives as part of an overall master plan to be further developed with the input of professional planners, stakeholders, local entrepreneurs and other interested parties including cruise lines and major suppliers."
"The main area of focus will stretch from Arawak Cay to Potter's Cay, and will embrace public infrastructure enhancements, private investments, public/private sector partnerships and participation by local and international bodies interested in preserving the city's rich history, culture and environment.
A scenic boardwalk on reclaimed land, together with a myriad of entrepreneurial opportunities, are envisioned stretching all the way from the Hilton hotel to Potter's Cay," said Christie.
"My government has started a dialogue with the owners of cruise lines for the renewal and expansion of attractions, tours, shopping, cultural experiences and things to do in a pleasant, visitor-friendly, safe, well-landscaped and clean environment, that would improve visitor satisfaction and increase visitor spending to become the highest in the region.
"In the months ahead and in the ensuing period, the downtown area will benefit from new construction and community activities, creating many new jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities and enhanced government revenue," he added.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
RoyalFidelity Merchant Bank & Trust is seeking to develop and launch mutual fund products into the wider Caribbean market, leveraging the joint venture relationship it has with Royal Bank of Canada - and the latter's Royal Bank of Trinidad & Tobago (RBTT) merger - for sales and distribution channels throughout the region.
Michael Anderson, the Bahamian-headquartered investment bank's president, told Tribune Business in an exclusive interview that RoyalFidelity was especially interested in developing US dollar-denominated investment fund products, targeting the extensive US dollar stocks accumulated by businesses and individuals region- ...
Local investors confident about the future of Kerzner International Bahamas may be salivating for a piece of the property fund that swapped debt for equity to take an ownership stake in the iconic company.
They likely won't be able to, though. Brookfield's Real Estate Finance Fund I (BREF I), a private equity real estate fund, is currently not listed. But if your interest was piqued as Brookfield transitioned a junior debt position into a major equity stake, BREF II, another real estate fund by Brookfield, and real estate investment funds on the whole may be on the radar now.
CFAL's senior vice president, Kevin Burrows, told Guardian Business local investors in non-Bahamian Dollar (BSD) denominated property funds would have to start the process like any other acquisition of non-BSD securities - going through the Central Bank of The Bahamas for investment dollars at a 12.5 percent premium. But that happens after the decision to invest in an international property fund is made, and that process has some specific considerations.
"In examining a real estate fund like that, it's a bit more complex than buying an international stock," Burrows said in an interview yesterday.
There are two levels to consider, Burrows saying the skill level of the asset manager was one factor, while the content of the property portfolio - its diversification and other risk factors - was another.
In the case of Brookfield, with over $150 billion in assets under management (AUM), the turn of events for Kerzner International may give some indication of the company's management savvy.
"Obviously, it seemed to have a fairly junior position [in the Kerzner debt structure], with a lot of senior debt above it. But they were able to convert that junior position into an equity ownership stake at the Atlantis and the One And Only.
"I'm sure these guys, when they went into the initial loan structure had a plan "B", so if something went wrong they would get control of the property - which ultimately they did."
The second factor to consider is the property portfolio itself. Investors would look to see how diversified it is. If the properties are clustered geographically, single events could impact the entire portfolio. That risk exists if they are clustered in the same or a few sectors as well. If all the properties were hotels, for example, the global tourism industry would impact on the portfolio.
Within the vehicle that is used to hold the property , its debt structure, and potential debt structure, should be examined too. Taking BREF II as an example, capitalized at $727 million, it can leverage up to 2 times with a lending capacity of over $1.5 billion.
For the lay-investor, it may all seem complex. Considering the premium to buy investment dollars, international property funds may be waves out in an ocean that many will never get to surf in.
Still, the principles behind analyzing property funds hold, and there are a number of Bahamian alternatives. Locally, investors may be able to peer into management expertise better, and will have a better understanding of the mix of properties in the portfolio.
Geographical diversification may not be so easy to get around, however, so investors will often find their fortunes tied to the real estate markets here.
The Government of The Bahamas announces that it has today concluded the Agreement by which it has contracted to sell a 51% interest in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company Ltd (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications Plc (CWC).
Prime Minister Perry Christie has hit out in relation to crucial trade talks with Canada over continued access to its market, suggesting there is a "fundamental disequilibrium" in Canada's approach to the matter.
Addressing the University of the West Indies' St. Augustine's campus in Trinidad and Tobago on the topic "Role of The Bahamas in CARICOM", Christie pointed to the trade talks with Canada as an area of cooperation between CARICOM and The Bahamas, but said meetings with Canada have "proven difficult and a settlement has been nettlesome".
His comments echo those of other governments in recent weeks, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica, which said in a statement that "there is little time remaining in which CARICOM and Canada can seek to bridge the gaps in the negotiations."
In his address on Monday, Christie argued that it should not have been so difficult for The Bahamas and Canada to reach an agreement on the crucial trade pact.
"We must harness the political will to settle the issues. We remember that it was Canada who came to us to ask us to support their resistance to the move of the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) from Montreal. They did so on the basis of our traditional friendship, yet our traditional friendship has not been strong enough so far to be leveraged into the conclusion of a trade pact. It is highly arguable that there is a fundamental disequilibrium in that."
In a recent address to the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers' Confederation's first National Conclave of Chambers of Commerce, Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder pointed out the importance of concluding a trade pact with Canada, noting that without it Bahamian exports such as lobster, salt, pharmaceuticals and blended fuel from BORCO would be subject to a 35 percent duty going into Canada.
Goods going into Canada from the Caribbean had been going in duty-free under a waiver obtained by Canada from the World trade Organization (WTO) for the so-called "preferential" arrangement. Under the WTO, WTO members such as Canada and much of the Caribbean are not permitted to offer each other trade terms which are better than those that they offer to other WTO members, and as such talks have been underway since 2007 to conclude a "reciprocal" agreement whereby Canada gets equal benefits to those offered to the Caribbean for its goods and services entering this region.
As with the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe, the new agreement would cover not only trade in goods, but also in services and investments.
In January 2014, the region was able to obtain an agreement from Canada to hold off on raising duties on Caribbean goods until Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN) negotiations had been concluded, following the expiry of the WTO on December 31, 2013.
Admitting that the talks to conclude a new agreement are "very tenuous" at present, Pinder said last week that while all Caribbean countries would also be disadvantaged by an increase in the duty charged on their goods, it would not be as severe as in The Bahamas' case, given that they are members of the World Trade Organization, and therefore while the duty rates applicable to their products would rise, it would not be as high.
He used the example of what would happen in the case of a lack of agreement in the Canada trade talks as evidence of the importance of The Bahamas finally acceding to the WTO.
"You may as well say to our crawfishermen we have no access because it's not competitive on price.
Morton Salt (will be charged) 35 percent duty on salt (exported to Canada). You might as well say to them that market is closed to you, that's the implication we face. This is a real world, real time implication and effect of us not being members of the WTO."
A fifth round of negotiations on CARIBCAN was held in Barbados in January. Part one of the sixth round was held in Kingston, Jamaica on March 3 to 7. Part two is being held in Ottawa, Canada and was slated to end on April 4, having started on March 31, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.
Contacted yesterday for an update on the latest round of talks, Pinder said that there is "nothing to report, except that they are ongoing".
Negotiations on the agreement have to date been projected to conclude no later than June 2014.
The region's leaders have called for a "pro-development agreement which takes account of the differences in the levels of development between CARICOM and Canada, and which would support the sustainable economic and social development of the peoples of the region.
The financial services sector in The Bahamas has unique competitive advantages due to Grand Bahama's location and shipping infrastructure.
The Bahamas Financial Services Board's (BFSB)vision for the besieged industry integrates 'brick and mortar' activities with business and trade flows between countries, Wendy Warren, the board's CEO and executive director, said yesterday at the 20th Bahamas Business Outlook.
"The linkages and ability to leverage the
transshipment, logistics and commercial activities that are on tap in Grand Bahama could seal the deal for The Bahamas being the regional winner in international business and finance,"Warren said.
The BFSB with the support of ...
The parliamentary bell has rung and the date for election has been set. As expected, the excitement that comes with the season is coming to a boil, but religious ministers are urging people to not allow their judgement to be clouded over the next few weeks leading up to Monday, May 7 when they go to the polls to cast their vote.
Pastor Jay Simms, senior pastor at Christian Life Church says election season is not the time to be divided and warring with one another. He said that no matter what is going on in society, all professing Christians need to put God first and foremost in their lives.
"It disturbs me that every election season politics divides families and churches. As a person I strongly believe that everyone has a right to vote for whomever they want, and their decision should not divide their homes or ruin relationships. At the end of the day, the season will end and you still have to go about your daily life. Therefore, no matter what, all Christians should continue to love the Lord with all their heart, mind and soul, seek first the kingdom of God and of course love their neighbor as themselves."
Pastor Simms said after all is said and done, a group of people will rise as the new leaders of the country and no matter which side of the fence people are on, as Christians, he said it is their duty to pray for their leadership so that it will be fair, just and productive.
The non-denominational church leader said putting God in the backseat during this period is the worst thing professing Christians can do. And that cutting God out of the equation and not praying for guidance and protection can lead the country further astray. He said the most important thing for Christians to be doing at this time is binding together, no matter their political views to pray for the country's safe passage during this period and the rising up of the best people to run the nation.
"When it comes to politicians, particularly those who are professing Christians, it is all too important for them to remember that they are children of God first and then citizens of the country and political leaders second. Therefore, they should represent God in their walk and talk first, then to their respective parties," he said.
The Christian Life Church pastor said that too few politicians stick to their convictions during election season, and let party decisions take precedence over doing what they know is right. But it's a decision he said should never happen because although they may be called to lead, they should not let themselves be blinded into losing their integrity.
"I hope that all leaders use this season not just for political leverage, but to let their light shine so men can see their good works and glorify the heavenly father. Whatever is done in this season it should be done in love of God and fellow man. That's the bottom line."
Abundant Life Bible Church co-pastor, Gil Maycock, warns politicians to be careful in all that they do. Whether they profess Christianity or not, he said they should be wary of how they campaign and represent themselves and the opposing candidates. The minister says it is irresponsible for political candidates to cause unnecessary discord in the population simply for their own agenda.
"In this heated season, politicians should be extremely cautious of how they choose to run their campaigns. They should not let themselves get caught up in the political season and the rush that comes with it, and forget that they have to consider the nation first and foremost," said Pastor Maycock. "If they are to govern this nation they have to be responsible in campaign messages to ensure that in no way shape or form, by innuendo or anything else, that they do not stir up violence among the people. We are a religious people, so we are called to love and believe in the Christian message. So it should be remembered that this is not the season to destroy one another. This is a season to love."
The pastor urges politicians to stick with issues rather than personal attacks. He said they should always be putting others first, finding feasible and honest ways to solve issues and know that at the end of the day, whether they get in office or not, they still have a duty to uphold their integrity and serve the nation wholeheartedly.
"Our Bahamian people, we need to take advantage of this God-given privilege and vote for the person that best represents them - not just the party. I think we all should mature to the point that we want the best for constituencies and not get caught up in party politics."
Pastor Maycock said all Bahamians should pray for a peaceful election and for God to rise up the person he wishes to be in power. He said Christians should also be praying that whoever is elected will do what is right for everyone.
Pastor Leonard Johnson, president of the Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh Day Adventists said Christians should respect the rights of others around them. He said God has given man the spirit of choice - and to live in discord because their brother does not share their views is not in accordance with God's law.
"Christians should be using this time to evaluate the best people for the job and making their own personal choices on how they will vote. It is a personal decision that they must make in your own heart. Do not feel slighted when someone else has another view because it is not your right to force others to feel the way you do," said the pastor. "You, as a Christian, can only pray for the best result at the end of the day. God will rise leaders up and take them down accordingly and Christians should not be taking it upon themselves to fight a battle that God has control of."
Pastor Johnson said Christians should show respect for an individual who may have a different view or opinion, and that people have a right to think differently. He said they should use their time instead to pray for the people of the nation so that they would exercise a sense of reason, tolerance and understanding.
"I don't know if all politicians are Christians, but whether or not they are, they need to be mindful to offer themselves in the right way to vie for leadership in this country," said Pastor Johnson. "They should demonstrate a high level of respect for one another, and they should speak to issues that concern the Bahamian people and the nation - particularly the future, as opposed to attacking an individual or their character. We should be operating at a high level since we claim to be a religious people. I also hope that politicians respect the outcome of what is to come and learn to support whichever leader is in power whether it is in their favor or not."