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Nassau, Bahamas - Enclosed are Remarks by The Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Minister of Financial Services:
I am pleased to be here to speak to you on
the timely topic of Financial Services: "Resilience to meet 21st Century
Challenges. Many in the industry today are becoming intimidated,
concerned, or nervous about the changing international environment in
financial services. This is a legitimate concern, but I would also
encourage all to see opportunity as well from the changing international
environment. We in the Bahamas are truly blessed, we are an
international financial center who has experienced the ebbs and flows,
the ups and downs, the shifting landscape and have more times than not
come out ahead, surfaced with new opportunities to leverage and take
Transfer Solutions Providers Ltd. (TSP), operators of the Mango card, will use a $150,000 grant from the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) to expand its microcredit facility for its customers.
Yesterday, TSP executives, along with representatives from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the MIF signed a technical cooperation agreement for $150,000 for a 20-month project that will support microfinance services through technology. In addition to the $150,000 grant, TSP is investing an additional $153,000.
"This project will help to expand an innovative microcredit product. It will benefit approximately 2,500 including 1,000 new loan clients as well as Mango card members. The indirect beneficiaries will be 9,500 existing Mango customers," according to Astrid Wynter, the country's IDB representative.
"We are committed to supporting the private sector through an institution that will reduce the gap between the financing needs of the population and the supply of financial products and services specifically as it relates to credit services for low-income people in The Bahamas."
The project will include an in-depth study with focus groups of the credit population that will be used to develop credit risk methodology.
Harvey Morris, TSP's chief financial officer, said that he recognized his company was challenged to qualify its clients before administering funds. It's an issue that this project seeks to address.
"We recognized that in one of the areas that we are looking, microcredit, we were having a problem with how to qualify our clients before we administer funds. We aren't just looking at the regular small credit that is given to people. We are looking for something that can actually help the self-employed persons," he explained.
Wayne Beecher, a senior specialist for MIF, noted that one of its objectives is to focus on administering small loans or microfinancing.
"It is in that vein that we are assisting Mango today, particularly using a solution that leverages technology to expand outreach of microfinance services. This is a challenge for The Bahamas because it doesn't have the required density in terms of the population, which allows for the efficient administration of micro financing. So using this platform which is very technology reliant, it should mitigate the risk and should overcome the efficiency gap," he added.
Damianos Sotheby's International Realty's George Damianos was inducted into the Billionaires Club during the recent Who's Who in Luxury Real Estate's annual fall conference in Boston, Massachusetts.
Damianos is a member of Who's Who in Luxury Real Estate, an exclusive organization which offers membership by invitation only and is limited to 500 companies.
At the conference Saul Cohen, president and co-founder of Hammond Residential Real Estate, was honored with the Luxury Real Estate Lifetime Achievement Award.
Members of the Who's Who in Luxury Real Estate network participated in expert panel discussions on a diverse range of topics including working with international buyers, the latest technologies to win and market a listing and cultivating your network by leveraging your connections to grow your business.
More targeted discussions led by Luxury Real Estate members and partners included negotiating from a number of different perspectives, technology tips to sell more real estate, current findings on Chinese real estate investment, marketing a lifestyle for resort destinations, how to find and activate the top one percenters and tips on growing your business to the next level while keeping a healthy work/life balance.
The Luxury Real Estate Board of Regents was honored at this year's fall conference to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the brand. The board met preceding the event for further networking opportunities and a presentation from Jim Gardner of The Wall Street Journal on luxury real estate insights. In addition to Cohen, recipients of the Luxury Real Estate awards include: Best app: Harry Norman, Realtors; Best brand integration: Towne Realty Group; Best digital marketing: The Invidiata Team; Best industry networking: Tim Savage; Best overall marketing package: Concierge Auctions; Best print marketing: Carmel Realty Company; Best video: Jon Wade; Best website: Handsome Properties; Billionaires Club: Joe Babajian, Mauricio Umansky, Creig Northrop, John Klemish, Elizabeth Stribling, George Damianos and Malcolm Dingle; Extraordinary philanthropist: Jim Walberg; Highest average sales price: Stribling & Associates; Master networker: Colleen Olson, Julia Hoagland, Lisa James Otto, Paul Benson, Denise Pruitt, Kirsten Johnson, Joseph Himali, John Stough, Scott Maizlish and Edgar Van Schaik; Most innovative marketing technique: Resources Real Estate; Most outbound referrals: Waterfront Properties and Club Communities; Outstanding development: The Greenbrier Sporting Club; Outstanding rookie: Farrah Aldjufrie; Outstanding social media savvy: Lila Delman Real Estate; Significant sales: Eleanor Farnsworth, Mauricio Umansky, Nancy Pandolfi, Concierge Auctions, Faith Wilson, Stephanie Mallios and Brian Hazen.
MIAMI - MasterCard Latin America and the Caribbean announced yesterday the appointment of Ray Merceron as the vice president and territory head for the Western Caribbean, which includes Belize, Bermuda, The Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Haiti. As territory head, Merceron will hold overall responsibility for expanding MasterCard's market in the sub-region.
"Ray brings with him nearly ten years of experience in the payments industry, together with strong a background in financial analysis and a range of international financial experience, having held positions for MasterCard in Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean," said Mario Perez Jr., General Manager for MasterCard in the Caribbean. "As the head of one of our most significant markets in the sub-region, Ray will be tasked with providing leadership and necessary support in connection with delivery of advanced products and services to meet the demands of the market."
Having held positions for MasterCard in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Ray brings with him nearly ten years of experience within the payment industry. Merceron first joined MasterCard in 2004, and has since held positions in finance, as well as in the area of customer delivery, where, through continuous customer interaction, he was instrumental in the establishment of MasterCard's Maestro brand as the predominant brand in the Netherlands.
Prior to joining MasterCard he held an account management role at Avaya, a global provider of business communications and collaboration systems, where he was responsible for identifying business opportunities with new clients in Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
"I am very proud to become part of the Caribbean team at MasterCard, leading a group of markets with as much potential as the Western Caribbean," said Merceron. "I look forward toward working on implementing effective strategies and plans in these markets while leveraging our innovative company culture that continues to offer solutions that are safe, simple and smart".
Merceron was born and raised in Haiti, where he received his secondary education, and later attended Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in business and technology.
Valued theologian-therapist Dr. Lazarus Castang's response to my article is a treasure (The unbridgeable moral divide between the Caribbean church and homosexuals). It represents a clarity that is both concise and thorough. I see a rare pastoral willingness to jump out of the closet of internal church talk into the burning bush of public discourse.
This attitude elaborates a thoughtful view of subjecting the chaos of human sexuality under the ideal of faith. By uncovering a powerful vernacular located within a broad and deep knowledge of the Caribbean Christian tradition, Castang does not assume his faith. He chooses to wrestle with the morality of homosexuality so that we can see an ancient truth through new lens. Four concerns rivet my attention.
First, Castang stays clear of religious polemics. Although he conveys that the Caribbean church is morally committed to a heterosexual norm, he demonstrates that the distinction between law and religious practice is not sufficient to encourage a humane culture within the Caribbean. I couldn't agree more. My judgment is that the insistence on the truth of doctrine going up against the majesty of individual choice and civil obligations will not automatically produce ethical restraint within a culture that resists an exclusive morality.
Second, his critique that I left uninvestigated the impact that homosexuals have had on the Caribbean state and church is fair. I could have more fully explored how the openness of homosexual lifestyle has invaded our rigid morality about the role and function of human sexuality, while expanding our culture to live with diversity through an anthropology of wholeness. Further, I could have underscored the possibility of advocacy for a more inclusive democratic civilization that homosexuality has evoked. These effects deserve finer articulation.
Third, he opines that homosexuals must be prepared to bear the moral burden of Caribbean culture that frowns on their sexual practices. This keen observation, however, does not erase the manifestations of mental, spiritual and psychological anguish the church inflicts on homosexuals in its sincere efforts to condemn the sin and affirm the sinner. The church's uncompromising moral stance has far-reaching consequences. It shapes and informs wider communal behavior toward homosexuals, which often breeds callous practices, all of which fall outside a Christian love ethic that screams for justice.
Therefore, the church cannot merely acknowledge this problem with deliberate speed. If it is going to pragmatically merge its spiritual intelligence with this social dilemma, a transformative attitude towards homosexuals within Caribbean societies should produce a more genuine Christian disposition as well as a more just society.
Fourth, Castang is fully aware of the focus to make sexual choices in our pluralistic society realizable but affirms that the Caribbean church must act in accordance with the discernible heterosexual order of creation that Genesis explains, even though our fallen nature has put us at odds with the ideal of human sexuality.
My question to Castang is this: What do we do with this moral schism that is too wide for any bridge? If this is the case, then the church would have to abandon its efforts to employ the power of God to deliver people from sexual behaviors that it condemns.
I understand that the Caribbean's conservative morality is on display in a churning progressive political culture, and that clashes around issues of personal liberty and equality will occur. Yet, I believe that the Caribbean church should construct an ethical bridge where private virtue and public conscience form the matrix for doing good, bearing witness to the truth, and eliminating stereotyping in order to preserve the common good.
If not, the church will find itself trapped in an irony where the qualms of social conscience arise in the most intimate of human relations but the principles of Christian love become ineffective to these challenges.
If any movement is to be made in this moral standoff, either the church admits defeat or takes some risks. These risks should both affirm the gospel of Jesus Christ and respect the efficacy of a diverse society and, consequently, the humanity of homosexuals.
It strengthens Christian beliefs in the Caribbean to know that a pastoral voice could leverage the tensions between faith and feelings with sensitivity.
Castang offers conscientious citizens enough room to breathe, albeit without a sigh of relief. As an act of redemptive love, this may be a time to combat every injustice that paralyzes human life from within the sacred space of the church.
Even if his voice does not reform society, Castang's view can become an agency of the Kingdom of God for preserving one's integrity. An honest enthusiasm for resolving these tensions is superior to a disconnected existence. Still, the tragic limitations or sublime beauty of sexual tolerance in the Caribbean is dismantling.
o Dr. Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specializes in government and business relations, and sustainable development projects. Newton works extensively in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, leadership, political, social, and faith-based issues. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
MACAU - Baha Mar is targeting around 25,000 well-heeled tourists each year from Asia and hopes gaming will account for up to one-third of its total business.
The $3.5 billion mega resort, slated to be completed in western New Providence by December 2014, intends to leverage its well-known corporate roots. Baha Mar is being financed by the Export-Import Bank of China and constructed by China Construction America.
Executives said that a direct flight from China could be in the cards once a "critical mass" of interest has been established. Until then, a strong effort will be made to funnel Asian tourists through Canadian or U.S. connections.
"Our first goal is to develop connectivity," said Robert "Sandy" Sands, senior vice president of administration and external relations. "Until we develop a critical mass, directs flights are not feasible. It will take a period of time."
The top Baha Mar executive identified Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Toronto and Vancouver as key stopovers before carrying on to Nassau. While most tourists will likely come from North America, Asia and indeed Latin America are seen as a profitable "diversification" of the tourism draw.
Asian tourists tend to be more dedicated gamblers, stay for longer periods of time and spend larger amounts of cash per visit, according to Sands. Those attributes are a recipe for success when it comes to the gaming product.
The resort already runs a Hong Kong office. Therefore, marketing and the establishment of "junket operators" will be crucial to enticing the Asian market. Junket operators essentially manage the affairs and travel arrangements of high-net-worth gamblers.
"Do not underestimate the power of the Asian gambler, it is not about quantity, but about quality," Sands added.
Pete Wu, senior vice president of international casino marketing and alliances for Baha Mar, called 25,000 high-end Asian tourists "enormous".
However, top of the agenda for Wu is a more simple task: Helping Asian tourists find The Bahamas on a map.
"Where is The Bahamas? How long is the flight? These are the first steps. So we're trying to educate the consumer," he explained.
Linked with the rise of Asian tourists will be a major push by Baha Mar officials to raise the bar of service. One of the primary reasons for a large delegation to Macau is to demonstrate the high level of service in this mecca of gaming.
Resort executives are joined by Obie Wilchcombe, the minister of tourism, for the G2E Asia 2013 exhibition, the largest casino event in the world.
"I would say service is our biggest opportunity. I feel we can rise to the occasion and get it done," Sands told Guardian Business. "Recruiting the right Bahamian, and giving him or her the right exposure, we can accomplish these goals."
Over the coming days, the Baha Mar delegation will continue to hammer home these principles and make their presence known at the G2E Asia 2013 convention. The tour comes to a crescendo on Wednesday when Baha Mar is sponsoring a special lunch at the Venetian Expo Center.
Guardian Business understands that Sarkis Izmirlian, the CEO of Baha Mar, is expected to make an important speech concerning the mega resort's casino product.
Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BTC) expects to have a television service on offer by the end of March 2015, which will "be better and give better coverage" to customers than that offered by Cable Bahamas, Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) CEO Phil Bentley said on Friday.
This came in an interview on the sidelines of a press conference in which Bentley said that the company intends to spend $170 million over the next three years in The Bahamas, a reduction from the $200 million announced in June, with spending in the areas of broadband and fiber networks, cell sites and in other areas.
Bentley told Guardian Business that the telecoms provider "should be doing a lot better" at serving its customers and the investments would help to addresss that.
Asked if, as alluded to in a January press conference, BTC intends to implement its television product in partnership with ZNS, Bentley told Guardian Business that the company would "like to do that".
"It's a good question. We absolutely want to offer a BTC product that can compete with Cable Bahamas and give better choice. We think our service will be better and our coverage will be better.
"So that's what we're going to do. If we can work with ZNS, then obviously that's an important broadcaster on the island and we'd like to do that."
BTC has spoken of the desire to implement TV in The Bahamas for some time.
In September 2012 then CEO Geoff Houston suggested the company would begin trials of the product in early 2013.
Houston had stated that BTC's TV product would have more than 100 channels and would leverage the carrier's existing NGN network and broadband offering.
The press conference held Friday was for the purposes of announcing the completion of the establishment of the BTC Foundation, into which two percent of the company's shares will be vested.
This comes after the government first announced the establishment of the foundation in January of this year, following negotiations. The foundation is intended to benefit charitable causes. CWC maintains 49 percent, along with board and management control.
Bentley said on Friday that the agreement is "good for BTC - creating stability in our investment climate; it's good for our business partner, the government, and, most importantly, it's good for the Bahamian people, as the foundation starts to invest in good cause."
A $1 million check was displayed which will be paid into the BTC foundation.
Bentley later called on customers not to switch companies when a new cell phone provider enters the Bahamian market, pointing to how BTC's profitability will relate to more funds going into the foundation: "Customers of BTC, don't switch to a new entrant!...Don't let the new entrant prosper at the expense of BTC, and don't let the BTC Foundation lose out on funding good causes."
As reported in Saturday's Nassau Guardian, Bentley also called on the government to provide suitable investment conditions for the company.
"To invest, we must have the right investment climate," said the CWC CEO.
He referred to the need for "fair regulation", encouraged the lowering of duties on smart phones, and the need for "flexibility" in immigration laws that would allow the company to engage "the services of international specialists".
Asked to comment on statements made by BTC CEO Leon Williams recently, in which he told Guardian Business that he views BTC as in a "do or die situation" heading into competition, due to weaknesses in a number of areas that may place it in an uncompetitive state, Bentley told Guardian Business that he, too, thinks BTC needs major improvements.
"The reality is that I feel we should be doing a lot better serving our customers in The Bahamas than we have been doing. If I look at measures of dropped calls, network reliability, power outages, we ought to have the best performing network here in The Bahamas, and we haven't."
Bentley added: "We've got to show real improvement this year, and that's what we're focused on.
We're putting a lot more cell sites in to improve coverage, more powerful radio signals to send signals within the cell network. We've got a lot of work going on at the moment to look at all our cell sites and make sure they're optimized."
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
BEC's ocean thermal energy partner yesterday revealed it plans to develop an eco-industrial park in the Bahamas, leveraging its project into technology and export spin-offs that would make this nation "a world leader in green technology and green energy".
Jeremy Feakins, chairman and chief executive of Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTEC), told Tribune Business that the company's "vision" was to emulate the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA), and its Ocean Science and Technology Park, in the Bahamas, having already assessed potential sites at Clifton Pier and in Grand Bahama.
He explained that the deep sea water employ ...
A local business consultant has hit back at suggestions from the managing director of The Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) that the government should consider allowing it to lead the way as a key small business advisory agency, rather than requiring the wind-up of the bank under forthcoming small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) legislation.
Mark Turnquest, of Mark A. Turnquest and Associate Companies, said that preliminary evidence from a needs assessment done on the SME sector in The Bahamas shows that no current institution is serving their needs, and the small and medium-sized enterprise development agency (SMEDA), which would be created by the SMEDA Bill, is necessary to plug the gaps in the current institutional support network.
"The SMEDA is a must in their minds," he told Guardian Business.
His comments come after Arinthia Komolafe, managing director of the BDB, called on the government to allow the BDB to serve the same purpose as a SMEDA in a "more cost effective way".
She said the current SMEDA Bill represents a "threat to the BDB", as it requires the winding up of the bank; she called for the government to, instead, invest the $25 million start-up costs for the SMEDA into the BDB, which could "serve the same purpose."
Komolafe, who was appointed to head the BDB in September 2013, has committed to leading a turn around at the BDB, not only strengthening the BDB's balance sheet and ability to lend, by improving its level of delinquency, but also adding more business advisory services into its portfolio of offerings, appreciating that a lack of understanding of business management is a major source of SME failure.
At present, just over one third of its loans are performing, with around 500 businesses in arrears to the tune of $41 million.
Turnquest, who played a role in the development of the SMEDA Bill, said there is no way that the BDB can do what SMEDA is intended to do.
He pointed out that a needs assessment conducted after a survey of SMEs in The Bahamas, which has yet to be officially released, shows that there are major gaps in the support network for SMEs, whether on the level of technical assistance or financing.
One of the critical elements of the SMEDA will be its lack of political interference, said Turnquest, suggesting this has hampered the effectiveness of The Bahamas Development Bank.
"The BDB cannot assist them. Just the name, the history, the culture, what Bahamian people understand about the BDB...Politics destroyed any type of transformation of the BDB," he said.
"SMEDA is going to correct all of the wrongs of the financial and non-financial institutions in the past. It will bring together all of the agencies so we can operate in an effective and efficient manner.
"It will be focused on SME development in a comprehensive and holistic manner. It will be everything in one, with no political influence, because in its structure and legislation it will say the Minister of Finance would have no leverage over the organization."
Turnquest said that rather than increasing bureaucracy, as Komolafe said the establishment of a SMEDA would do, Turnquest said it will reduce "red tape".
"It's not a bureaucracy; it's one entity that can enhance SME development in The Bahamas," he said.
Under the SMEDA Bill, several agencies that currently provide various services to businesses, such as the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation and the Bahamas Venture Capital Fund, would be amalgamated under one roof, while the BDB would be wound up.
"All they're doing now is butting up against themselves and doing duplicate work, and offering no benefit to the business man," Turnquest said of these entities.
He said the critical difference between a SMEDA and the BDB would be the level of advisory assistance SMEDA would provide to SMEs, notwithstanding Komolafe's commitment to seeing the BDB grow its offerings in this area.
"The BDB only really provides the financial mechanism. SMEDA would provide management consulting, accounting, and marketing services to small and medium sized businesses who want to grow. The training mechanism and the coaching and counseling mechanism will take place via SMEDA.
"Even licensing your business SMEDA will take care of. It will be a one-stop shop, like the Small Business Administration in the U.S.," said Turnquest.
Rather than encouraging the government to look at letting a transformed BDB play the role that the SMEDA would play, Turnquest suggested the BDB looking at how it can "align" itself with the SMEDA, and even suggested that Komolafe herself might do well to seek a job at the agency.
"She is saying what she is saying because she is the director of an organization that will cease to exist in the future," he stated.
Turnquest said he expects the Bill to move forward once the government finishes with value-added tax (VAT) implementation this year.
"The only thing that is stopping SMEDA from progressing is VAT. Once that progresses, you are looking at the end of the year for that to be completed," he added.
An ongoing legal battle being waged against Brookfield Asset Management bears similarities to the now defunct action taken against the firm by Kerzner International's senior lenders.
According to Canadian court documents obtained by Guardian Business, Birch Mountain Resources Ltd., an Alberta corporation, is suing Brookfield for allegedly using its debt position to transfer assets worth $1.6 billion to one of its holding companies for less than $50 million.
Birch Mountain is accusing Brookfield of engaging in "death spiral stock trading". The plaintiffs claim a Brookfield affiliate, holding $31.5 million in debt, leveraged its powers to make the company appear bankrupt and insolvent. Birch Mountain common shares from May 2006 to November 2008 plummeted from $7.99 to $0.01 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The company owns a portion of land in mineral-rich Alberta believed to contain a lucrative limestone deposit. The Birch Mountain shareholders further allege the Brookfield affiliate was aware of the deposit's potential and failed to act in the interests of shareholders to keep the company's head above water during a critical time.
"The end result of the above conduct is that the original Birch Mountain common shareholders, who worked so long and hard to develop an asset worth an estimated $1.6 billion, received nothing and the hedge fund will now develop the resource in a private company," the court document stated.
The plaintiffs are claiming Brookfield was oppressive, unfairly prejudicial and unfairly disregarded the interests of shareholders.
Brookfield will not comment on any legal action that is before the courts.
The plaintiffs further allege that shareholder power and approval was avoided by suspending the operation of the firm's shareholder rights plan, while public disclosures were often "selective and confusing and often filed so late as to be of no assistance".
The original motion was filed back in September 2010. The two sides spent much of 2011 fighting about whether the trial should be held in Ontario, where Brookfield's head office resides, or in Alberta, the location of the assets.
In March 2011, Brookfield filed a motion in the Superior Court of Justice claiming the plaintiff lacked jurisdiction in Ontario. Months later, this motion was upheld by the courts. Birch Mountain is now filing for certification in Alberta for the class action lawsuit.
Birch Mountain first discovered the major limestone deposit on its extensive Alberta oil sands property back in 2002, according to the court document. In December 2007, Birch Mountain announced the issuance of a $31.5 million "convertible senior secured debenture" with Tricap, a Brookfield affiliate, designed to provide "long-term patient capital to companies with the potential for value creation and a need to recapitalize".
Seven months later, the document stated Birch Mountain did not make a scheduled interest payment on its liabilities.
In August 2008, Brookfield issued a press release to the public.
"Tricap is in discussions with the management and directors of the corporation (Birch Mountain) and its financial advisors regarding the event of default under the debenture and the loan agreement," it read. "The corporation also announced that in the event an immediate sales process does not achieve an acceptable price, the corporation intends to work with its stakeholders to recapitalize the balance sheet to improve liquidity and permit delivery of the business plan."
Tricap appointed PriceWaterhouseCoopers as receiver of Birch Mountain, at which point it transfered the company's assets to 1439442, a private wholly-owned subsidiary of the Brookfield affiliate.
By December of 2008, Tricap filed with the Security Exchange Commission "stating that it may be deemed to be the sole beneficial owner of 3,458,872,727 Birch Mountain common shares" upon conversion of the debenture.
The offer was accepted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers one day later.
"After the death spiral stock trading was completed Brookfield and/or Tricap owned, if the various convertible debentures were exercised, approximately 97.6 percent of the outstanding Birch Mountain common shares, leaving the original Birch Mountain common shareholders with approximately 2.4 percent of the outstanding Birch Mountain common shares," the document read.