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Debate on a modified Freedom of Information Bill is expected to begin when the Senate meets this morning.
Government Leader in the House of Assembly Tommy Turnquest said yesterday the anticipated legislation will be passed before the Free National Movement's term in office comes to an end.
The government withdrew the original Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill tabled in the House in 2011 and replaced it with a new version that was brought to the Senate last week.
Turnquest said the government made several changes to the legislation and decided to put forth a 'cleaner' version of the Bill rather than bring ammendments to the House.
"There were some changes to the Bill we tabled. Rather than going through ammendments in the House of Assembly we withdrew the Bill and tabled a new one in the Senate," Turnquest said.
"We're going to pass it before the election. We believe that all government business should be public."
Enacting Freedom of Information legislation is one of the pledges the Free National Movement made in its 2007 Manifesto. A FOI Bill was tabled in the House last October.
At the time, it was said that the legislation would not be enforced until July 1, 2012.
Although the government was commended for bringing the legislation forward there was some criticism about how far reaching the legislation would be.
Concerns were also expressed about the powers of the Information Commissioner, a position created by the legislation.
Obie Wilchcombe, leader of Opposition Business in the House, said yesterday he has worries about the amount of red tape that could prevent the public and media from accessing information made available through the new law.
"The question I've always had about freedom of information [is] what's the bureaucracy going to be like and how is that going to work," Wilchcombe said.
"Is it going to assist in the proliferation of democracy, because that's what it was intended to do, to ensure that the public has access to information at all times. What are the limitations and how far can you go and what impact does it have on (House) committees like the Public Accounts Committee?
"It's one of those things that we have to think very deeply about, we have to understand it very thoroughly, we have to ensure that it's workable, that it's going to serve the public, the media and all concerned."
It was unclear what specific changes were made to the FOI Bill.
Changes have been made to the process of becoming a money laundering reporting officer (MLRO) in The Bahamas, with the head of the local compliance organization saying it will filter out those who are not fully qualified for the job.
President of the Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers (BACO) Kesna Pinder told Guardian Business the revised guidelines for becoming a MLRO in the country will ensure that persons having the title will be well-suited for the position.
"Newly-appointed MLROs must go through an approval and those who are currently MLROs, each financial institution will do a reassessment of their MLROs based upon these guidelines," she said. "There hasn't been......
Bahamians must be educated on the correct process of purchasing land and securing its financing, as to avoid losing thousands of dollars in investments, according to Dwayne Gibson, partner at Gibson, Rigby & Co. law firm. Gibson told Guardian Business he has noticed over the years that many Bahamians are still "very clueless" when it comes to looking at capital purchases for homes.
He said the extensive process begins with buyers having to come up with a five to 10 percent deposit.
Though it has been tough, Gibson admitted that initiatives like the government implementing a stamp duty exemption has been a significant help to those purchasing real estate, in particular first-time owners.
"Apart from that, you would then have to look at what the commitment fee is going to be. That can vary between one to two percent depending on which institution you go to," according to Gibson.
"You will have to determine what the stamp duty is going to be, whether you are paying a particular percentage will depend on the property's value.
"For instance, if your purchase is worth $300,000, the stamp duty would be five percent. If it's your first home, you will be able to have that waived and that will reduce your overall cost," he explained.
From a banking perspective, Gibson noted that in addition to the commitment fees, interested buyers will also have to secure life insurance for the loan's face amount, along with mortgage indemnity insurance to bridge the financing between what one is qualified for and allowed to borrow.
Gibson believes a huge challenge is that Bahamians do not fully understand the process they are being exposed to, in terms of the overall cost.
"Since 2009, as a result of the economic conditions, we have seen persons wanting to purchase, having the deposit and portion of the fees but then when they get to the bank, the banks say to them well in addition to what you have, these are the additional requirements," he shared.
He pointed out that another barrier buyers are faced with is the requirements laid out by some banks that need them to still have the stamp duty's value on the account before an approval is given.
"In my judgment, that practice has to be modified because it wouldn't make sense for persons to come forward with all of those funds if they are not going to be applied towards the actual purchase. That's been taking place in more than one institution," Gibson added.
"Persons also come in with their five percent and the banks are now requesting up to 15 percent. You also have situations where a mother and a child perhaps want to purchase and because of that type of relationship, they ask for a larger injection than if it was a single person coming forward."
Gibson advised that buyers consult with and enlist the services of a lawyer that is recognized by the Bahamas Bar Association and Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) before making any payments.
He revealed: "It's important to have a lawyer because what we have been seeing when you don't have an attorney and things go wrong, buyers are challenged in getting the monies they invested back."
Gibson further noted that a lawyer is paid based on the transaction and the time spent working on the case.
"Lawyers charge on an hourly basis or what they do up to the point of producing the conveyance and certifying title. There is a flat fee of 2.5 percent of the consideration that an attorney can charge. This is in addition to the disbursements, including government fees and independent fees to have a search performed by a company outside of the firm," he explained.
He advised Bahamians to save, maintain some stability and visit an attorney before purchasing real estate.
The government is confident that adopting value-added tax (VAT) will lead to a significant reduction in cases of tax fraud, a legal expert in the Ministry of Finance has stated.
"VAT will reduce fraud because it creates more transparency at every stage from production, to importation, to point of sale," attorney Renee Fisher told public servants at the Department of Housing during a recent seminar. "Businesses will be split into various sectors and each will be given a single TIN (tax identification number), so fraud will be easier to spot."
Experts have demonstrated that in many countries where VAT is the accepted form of taxation, it has served as a catalyst for the improvement and modernization of national fiscal regimes because it forces the standardization and computerization of collection and oversight systems.
Among the many benefits Fisher revealed to the public servants are a reduction in the fraudulent cases which undermine revenue collection.
"In the end, it will be better for the consumer, as it will lead to increased accountability," she said.
"Most systems already have a tax option embedded that can be reconfigured to show the VAT automatically. Businesses already submit customs forms, that will have to be modified to show the VAT percentage." Fisher added.
The attorney told public servants that the revenue improvements now sought became necessary after successive Bahamian governments operated at deficits for years. Now, remedial action must be taken before the country "goes off the cliff" of currency devaluation.
A devalued Bahamian dollar, Fisher said, would lead to a rapid rise in government debt, less capacity for The Bahamas to borrow money in an emergency, a credit downgrade and the eventual loss of access to credit markets.
For the average Bahamian, this would mean even more new taxes, large reductions in spending to curtail public services, and large job cuts in the public service, she said. Most importantly, a shrinking dollar would translate into higher prices for consumers.
The seminar was the latest in an ongoing series of public education presentations hosted by the government as it continues to prepare for the implementation of VAT.
Senators passed the landmark Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill after a marathon session in the Upper Chamber, which ended just before 1 a.m. yesterday.
However, the bill has yet to be debated and passed in the House of Assembly.
Two weeks ago, the original FOI Bill was withdrawn from the Senate and replaced with a new one.
Attorney General John Delaney, who led debate on the proposed legislation in the Senate, said the new bill takes into account suggestions from commentators.
The modified bill does not have a specified date of enforcement. It also reduced the fine an offender will face for contravening the legislation, from $100,000 to $10,000, and has restricted rights to access to public information to Bahamians or permanent residents.
The old FOI Bill had an enforcement date of July 1, however the new law leaves that decision up to the minister responsible.
This will give the public sector more time to adjust to the changes the new law brings, Delaney said.
"The public sector will need time to be prepared to be responsive to fulfill the requirements of this regime," he said.
Not all government information will be available, including records that would prejudice the country's security, confidential communication to the government by or on behalf of a foreign jurisdiction or international organization and information which could jeopardize the security of a prison and Cabinet papers.
In its 2007 Manifesto, the Free National Movement pledged to enact FOI legislation if elected to office.
The original bill was tabled in the House of Assembly last October.
Senators also cleared their agenda by passing amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act, and also passed a measure that would expand the National Drug Prescription Programme.
Saturday 17th December 2011 9:00 AM
Atlantis Crown Gymnastics Friday, December 16, 2011 at 9:00am until Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 9:00pm The first ever international gymnastics event of this magnitude held in the Bahamas which will also feature Bahamian Gymnast fron both Bahamas Star Gymnastics and NassauNastics. at Atlantis Resort Grand Ballroom December 16-17 The event will feature - Almost 400 athletes (men and women) at all levels - 27 clubs including 2 from the Bahamas (Bahamas Star Gymnastics and NassauNastics) - 3 countries and 16 states - Approximately 1800 visitors to our shores. - 17 clubs and 26 states from the USA will be represented You don't want to miss this spectacular historical event. Atlantis Crown Admissions One Day Pass Friday Saturday Adults ..................... $14.00 $18.00 Senior (65+) ........... $10.00 $12.00 Children (6-16) ....... $6.00 $10.00 Children (5 & Under) Free Free Two Day Pass Adults ..................... $26.00 Senior (65+) ........... $18.00 Children (6-16) ....... $12.00 Children (5 & Under) Free Ages 5 and Under Free! Programs $6.00 Meet Schedule GYM A – (GIRLS) Competition Venue – Grand Ballroom, Atlantis Resort SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17 SESSION 3: (GYM A) Level 7/8 (Modified Capital Cup Format) 7:45am Check-in/General Stretch 8:00am Coaches Meeting 8:30am Timed Warm-up – Flight A (only) 8:50am Line up/National Anthem 9:00am Competition Begins - (Flight B – W.U.) 12:50pm Awards SESSION 4: (GYM A) Level 9/10/Open (Modified Capital Cup Format) 1:00pm Check-in/General Stretch 1:10pm Coaches Meeting 1:30pm Timed Warm-up – Flight A (only) 1:44pm Line-up/National Anthem 2:00pm Competition Begins (Flight B – W.U.) 5:00pm Awards SESSION 5: (GYM A) Level 9/10/Open (Modified Capital Cup Format) 4:45pm Check-in/General Stretch 5:00pm Coaches Meeting 5:15pm Timed Warm-up – Flight A (only) 5:40pm Line-up/National Anthem 5:55pm Competition Begins (Flight B – W.U.) 9:30pm Awards Meet Schedule GYM B – (BOYS) Competition Venue – Grand Ballroom, Atlantis Resort SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17 SESSION 6: (GYM B) Level 4/5/6 - BOYS (Modified Traditional Format) 11:00am Check-in/General Stretch 11:10am Coaches Meeting 11:30am Timed Warm-up – Flight A (only) 11:42am Line up/National Anthem 11:55am Competition Begins - (Flight B – W.U.) 3:20pm Awards SESSION 7: (GYM B) Level 7/8/9/10 – BOYS (Modified Traditional) 4:00pm Check-in/General Stretch 4:10pm Coaches Meeting 4:30pm Timed Warm-up – Flight A (only) 4:45pm Line-up/National Anthem 4:55pm Competition Begins (Flight B – W.U.) 8:35pm Awards Click HERE to download Meet Schedules. Click HERE for Program Ad Order Form. Tickets go on sale soon and can be purchased at http://www.atlantiscrown.com/
Family Guardian Insurance Company is preparing to launch two new products this summer in an effort to expand its life insurance portfolio.
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The second annual October Fall Fest Horse Show at Mariposa Stables marked the beginning of the 2014-2015 horse show season for Bahamian equestrian riders. Over the course of the two-day event, dozens of junior and adult riders competed across a range of divisions, under the watchful eyes of guest judge Vivian Millard, a professional rider and Grand Prix show jumper.
The October Fall Fest Horse Show saw the re-introduction of the Bahamas Junior Classic, a Hunt Seat Equitation Medal class in which junior (under-17) riders competed over a course of fences at 2-foot-9 in height, and then are required to ride individually a 'test' set by the judge. The competition amongst the five young riders in the class was fierce, with just three points separating the top two finishers. In the end, 12-year-old Ella Holowesko on Casino Royale, of Mariposa Stables, emerged as the winner.
"Providing opportunities for our young riders to hone their skills and have fun with their sport is part of the Equestrian Bahamas mission," said Cathy Ramsingh-Pierre, member of the Equestrian Bahamas Organizing Committee. "We would like to thank all the riders and their trainers who came out to take part in this event. Also, we are very grateful to Erika Adderley-Coello and Mariposa Stables for hosting this first show of the year."
In the Equitation Champions category, Emily Lowe won aboard Ashmore's Gold in the 15-17 division; Cairo Morrison won aboard Kings over Aces in the Short Stirrup Division; and Anna Nottage won aboard Sterling Silver in the 12-14 division. Also, Annabel Izmirlian won aboard Stir it Up in the Walk, Trot, Canter Division, and Maya Tilberg won aboard Graceful Lark in the 11-and-under division. Mila Sands won aboard Reese's Pieces in the Future Champions Division.
For the Bahamas Junior Classic, Ella Holowesko won aboard Casino Royale, Novice Medal went to Lila Nottage aboard TGIF, and My First Medal went to Cairo Morrison aboard Kings over Aces.
In the Hunter Champions Category, Cairo Morrison won aboard Kings over Aces in the Short Stirrup division and Tamsin Nottage won aboard A Touch of Grey in the Modified Child/Adult Amateur division.
In the Pony Hunter division Lila Nottage rode TGIF to victory, and in the Modified Regular Working Hunter Division, Anna Nottage won aboard Sterling Silver. In the Hack Division Ellie Farrington experienced success aboard Gandolfe.
Equestrian Bahamas' mission is to create and develop a comprehensive equestrian program in The Bahamas, nurturing and supporting a broad range of equestrian activities. The next horse show of the competition year will take place November 8-9, at Camperdown Equestrian Centre. The public is invited to attend.