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A $1.5 billion lawsuit between rival casino operators in New York State and a political tug-of-war in Florida have delayed major developments from springing up in their respective states.
The news comes amid serious concerns from stakeholders in The Bahamas concerning mounting competition to the gambling product.
Back in November, George Markantonis, the president and managing director at Kerzner International (Bahamas), told Guardian Business that more legalized gambling in these states is "absolutely a concern" for future tourism numbers. Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, the minister of tourism and aviation, said casino services in Florida represent "the loss of a significant advantage".
But plans for both New York State and Florida appear to be at least temporarily derailed.
According to recent court documents obtained by Guardian Business, Concord Associates has filled a $1.5 billion lawsuit claiming a "racino", a facility in which horse race betting and other types of gambling are done electronically, has conspired to block its plans for a $600 million entertainment complex in upstate New York.
Phase one of the proposed casino resort would include a 75,000 square-foot casino and 258-room hotel, including five restaurants, entertainment spaces and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Concord, the owner of 116 acres on the site of the Concord Hotel in Thompson, New York, was supposed to gain access to an additional 1,500 acres of land courtesy of Entertainment Properties Trust (EPT).
Concord alleges that EPT is now repudiating an earlier agreement on behalf of Monticello Raceway Management, the rival "racino" .
Monticello Raceway Management, a subsidiary of Empire Resorts Inc, is the only race track and legal gaming facility within 80 miles.
"Empire and the EPT defendants have combined and conspired to take actions which were and are intended to prevent, and which have prevented, plaintiffs from establishing a competing racino at the site of the former Concord Hotel and the resort in the Town of Thompson in Sullivan County, approximately four miles from the Monticello Casino," the court document said. "To foreclose plaintiffs' access to such property, Empire has induced Entertainment Properties to repudiate agreements with platinizes and deny platinizes the use of these essential facilities."
Concord claims these actions represent "anticompetitive and monopolistic practices".
Meanwhile, in an unrelated matter, a Florida House of Representations subcommittee deferred a vote last month that would have paved the way for gambling resorts in the state.
The move temporarily blocked a Malaysian conglomerate from beginning work on a $3.8 billion casino resort in downtown Miami.
Prior to the deferred vote, two counties in Florida had passed referendums allowing slot machine gambling, which now require state-level approval. State law currently prohibits casinos from expanding beyond businesses run by the Seminole Indian Tribes and selected racetracks.
Resorts World Miami, backed by the Kuala Lumpar-based Genting Group, is planning a mega resort that includes a casino, four hotels, two residential towers, a shopping center, more than 50 restaurants and nightclubs and 700,000 square feet of convention and meeting space.
Markantonis called the Genting Group "high caliber" and felt The Bahamas would have to greatly "up its game" if the development ever came to fruition.
Indeed, both developments in New York State and Florida could also present unwelcomed competitive to Baha Mar, the $2.6 billion resort rising on Cable Beach, which boasts the largest casino in the Caribbean as a centerpiece of the project.
"I will say in this particular case that there are two factors that make this a bigger concern in general," Markantonis said. "About 15 percent of our business is dedicated casino business. Many of our guests are coming here for our casino as well as perhaps other attractions."
The government has indicated that it will not shift from January 1, 2015 as the date to institute the value-added tax (VAT) regime, and, with the November 31, 2014 deadline for registration looming, the possibility of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and even possible jail terms for non-compliance is growing more and more concrete.
Guardian Business understands that the government may take a hard line in this matter.
The VAT Act and the attendant regulations allow the government to impose fines or jail terms - in some cases both - for a bevy of offenses, both administrative and otherwise. The government has even given itself a "just in case" option: Section 38(5) of the regulations provides that the government is allowed to fine a person up to $10,000 or imprison that offender for up to two years for contravention of, or failure to comply with, "any provision of the act or regulations for which no penalty is described under this part".
The VAT Regulations 2014 allow a fine of up to $50,000 or a prison term of up to two years for "wilfully" evading VAT; improper collection and advertisement of VAT; impeding the comptroller or a VAT officer in the administration of the act or for failure to comply with a requirement of confidentiality.
Persons can be fined $1,000 for each false statement or failure to disclose information in a misleading manner (Section 92).
VAT registrants who contravene the VAT-inclusive pricing regime feared by the Bahamas Federation of Retailers (BFR) - or break other pricing rules - face up to $100,000 in fines, as much as a year in prison or both a fine and jail term. Failure to display a valid VAT registration certificate in a conspicuous place carries a maximum fine of $50,000 plus a year in jail.
Failure by taxable persons to register, face a maximum fine of $100,000 plus a year in prison. The same applies for a taxable person who leaves or tries to leave The Bahamas for an extended period without settling the VAT bill, and for a hotel or other person responsible for administration of condos that form a pool or other collective rental arrangement and fails to register.
Unregistered taxable persons who collect tax or issue VAT invoices, or fail to pay and account to the VAT department for VAT on taxable supplies and imports, face a maximum fine of $250,000 plus a year in prison. The same goes for an importer of taxable goods or services who fails to declare and pay in the prescribed time and for submissions of improper declarations.
The first schedule of the Value Added Tax Regulations 2014 contains 50 offenses for which the government can levy fines described as either "minor", "serious" or "very serious".
Section 96(h)(i) of the Value Added Tax Act 2014 sets a limit of $500,000 for penalties levied against those acting in contravention of the act, or not in compliance with it. For those who contravene or fail to comply with the VAT rules, the law allows a penalty of up to $300,000. Administrative fines are not to exceed $150,000.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE BAHAMAS is "well buffered" against any potential fallout from moves by American Eagle's parent to slash its workforce by up to 13,000, Tribune Business was told yesterday, the airline being among four-five carriers that each enjoy a 14 per cent share of seats coming into Nassau.
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, minister of tourism and aviation, told Tribune Business that the strategy of diversifying airlift to the Bahamas as much as possible, so that this nation's tourism industry was not disproportionately reliant on one carrier, would insulate this nation if American Eagle's routes and service frequency from the US were impacted.
We read recently in a local daily that Dr. Perry Gomez, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate for North Andros and the Berry Islands said that under a PLP government National Health Insurance (NHI) would be implemented within the first year of coming to office. While we are in the so-called 'silly season' and everyone and their brother are making promises, we would hope that some of the promises would be well reasoned outlining the attended cost and consequences for the wider community; the usual rhetoric is just not acceptable this time around. We believe that members of the Bahamian electorate are a bit more discerning than most politicians give them credit for.
What is NHI?
The issue of a National Health Insurance was first raised back in August 2002, when then Prime Minister Perry Christie appointed a 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission to review the feasibility of a National Health Insurance Plan. The committee was also mandated to determine the best way to make affordable healthcare available to all residents. The appointment of the committee was a step towards the fulfillment of the then government's promise to ensure that all patients receive the same access to healthcare regardless of their personal wealth or circumstances as outlined in the PLP's manifesto, 'Our Plan'. In 2004, the final report was released. It was the view of the committee that The Bahamas cannot afford to not have a National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme. The committee also stated that NHI had to be mandatory and would only work if the government had adequate funding.
We have no difficulty agreeing with those observations but would urge the authorities and the public to take a closer and more objective look at the proposal.
What is National Health Insurance? National Health Insurance is a form of social health insurance, which uses the principles of fund pooling and risk sharing to provide equity in access to care. Individuals pay an 'affordable' amount on a consistent basis and in return are able to have their healthcare needs provided for, regardless of cost.
It is envisioned that this 'cradle to the grave' national healthcare coverage will cover persons who are currently excluded from private insurance plans such as individuals with pre-existing illnesses, newborn babies and those over 65.
The 125-page NHI report outlined the following eight specific recommendations for the Cabinet's consideration:
1. National Health Insurance should be universal.
2. Legislation should stipulate the health insurance is compulsory for all residents.
3. National Health Insurance should be administered by the National Insurance Board.
4. A comprehensive benefits package should be offered.
5. Contributions should be set at a rate which is affordable for the majority.
6. Public and private providers should be offered the opportunity to join the National Health Insurance system.
7. All provider payment mechanisms should be considered for use with capitation being the preferred option. (Capitation is a provider payment mechanism in which providers are regularly paid a stipulated amount per person for whom they agree to provide services during a defined period of time.)
8. A percentage of revenues should be set aside for purposes that ensure the stability of National Health Insurance.
The present system in The Bahamas, which employed persons contribute to, is a form of social security. Our health system includes tax-funded care through government hospitals and clinics, and private care funded by direct user fees or private insurers. The incentives that exist include pension, invalidity assistance, medical incentives, maternity benefits, some income replacement, temporary and permanent disability benefits, and health coverage for occupational injuries. Basically, social health insurance currently exists only through the industrial injury component of NIB.
Recently, the present government implemented the National Prescription Drug Plan to assist some Bahamian residents, particularly the elderly and children under the age of 18 years. It is estimated that the cost of this program is currently running around $5 million; a figure which we expect to only increase in the future.
Healthcare costs are one of the more vexing and challenging issues facing countries today and according to the latest information on the subject, average cost in the last five years increased annually by more than 10 percent. With rapidly aging populations and the rising costs of modern medical technology, governments everywhere are finding it increasingly difficult to provide the funds required to meet healthcare needs of their respective populations. Given that position, we would hope that before any decision is made to move forward with universal health coverage, the authorities would prepare a detailed cost analysis to use as a guide. To do otherwise, we run the risk of committing to something which could surely place The Bahamas on an irreversible path to economic poverty.
Prior to 2008, it was estimated that only 51 percent of Bahamians had private health insurance. Today, given the challenging global economic environment, the impact on the local economy and increasing levels of unemployment, we estimate that number at around 40 percent based on the increasing payouts by insurance companies. For some, private insurance has become too expensive; persons in the lower income bracket and those living on the Family Islands are now less likely to have insurance coverage.
There are a number of questions that need answers. How much will this plan cost? (Back in 2004 estimates were pegged around $200 million-plus, which we felt were too low at that time). Who will pay for those who cannot afford to pay? What will be the impact on the private insurance industry? What impact will it have on the fiscal deficit? (This should be of particular relevance to future generations).
Historically, the Bahamian government has been a principal source of financing environmental and healthcare expenses for citizens of The Bahamas with an annual expenditure of over $267 million in the 2011/2012 budget or nearly 16 percent of total recurrent expenses which computes to almost four percent of the country revised GDP (another story for another day).
It is estimated that the private insurance companies spent nearly $230 million in 2011, which gives us a total healthcare expenditure bill of nearly $435 million or 5.4 percent of the revised GDP. In the 2004/2005 fiscal budget, the government allocated approximately $187 million for health expenditure. In 2004/2005 it was estimated that healthcare expenditure stood at approximately $340 million or 7.10 percent of GDP, of which $70 million was spent by the people, $102 million spent through private health insurance, and the rest by the government. In comparison, in 1985, total public expenditure amounted to approximately $56 million or only 2.70 percent of GDP.
It is our view, based on historical cost data and future projections, that the cost of a national healthcare plan going forward would be in the region of $500 million to $750 million; equivalent to nearly half of our recurrent expenditure and as such, would not leave much room for other important infrastructure projects.
We generally agree with the conclusion of the commission's report that a social health insurance system for The Bahamas would provide more equity in access to healthcare, more stable funding of public health costs, and fewer 'free riders', or people who benefit without contributing. Setting up such a national healthcare system involves more than just taxing the people but will require legislation and the creation of responsible bodies.
Two critical issues are ensuring compliance and public accountability. We are also mindful, however, that there are those who have little faith in governments operating such healthcare initiatives due to a propensity for such operations to become instruments of political patronage and the widely shared view that government institutions are relatively poorly managed. In the last analysis, we believe that the scheme would only work efficiently if, and only if, there are proper checks and balances in place especially to ensure that the pool of money goes in to a segregated fund for health and health alone.
oCFAL is a sister company of The Nassau Guardian under the AF Holdings Ltd. umbrella. CFAL provides investment management, research, brokerage and pension services. For comments, please contact CFAL at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Minister of Tourism and Aviation says local carriers are "biting the hand that feeds them" by complaining about the lack of support from the government, insisting it is doing all it can to promote the industry.
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace told Guardian Business the only way to develop the Family Islands is for local airlines to focus on internal flights, lower their costs and provide a high-quality service - an endeavor he continues to support.
"They don't understand what we are doing on their behalf," he explained.
"They can yell and scream all they want. We believe strongly in developing our local carriers."
The comments follow an ongoing dispute between Skybahamas and Minister of Tourism.
Randy Butler, the CEO of Skybahamas, has been increasingly critical and vocal concerning what he feels is preferential treatment for foreign carriers now offering direct flights to a variety of destinations in the Family Islands.
Vision Air, for example, is now offering $1 direct flights from several U.S. locations, which have been made possible through partnerships with the government and private stakeholders on the islands.
Gulfstream International, which is also in the process of ramping up its flights ahead of the winter season, has also benefited from government collaboration.
Vanderpool-Wallace said one of the major stumbling blocks preventing local carriers from effectively providing direct service from the U.S. is the Global Distribution System (GDS).
Most local carriers, he said, are not on this database to facilitate easy travel between airports and locations.
Meanwhile, the government has supported various initiatives to promote domestic travel to the islands for local carriers, he pointed out, including the buy-one-get-one-free offers.
On the whole, Butler said the companion deal is not effective when promoting their business.
High hotel costs and food prevent many Bahamians from travelling to the family islands, making the promotion less appealing.
"There is a nearsightedness and a lack of strategic planning for the whole industry," he felt.
In regards to the GDS, "investment in that makes no sense", he added. With the proliferation of the internet, he said there was no excuse in terms of the visibility of the airline and the services it offers.
"Fact number two," he said, "is if you're promoting the foreign airlines to go directly to the Family Islands, there is no room for domestic carriers. Why would we invest in it? It would only make sense if they all came to Nassau and then we distributed them to the Family Islands."
With this in mind, Butler argued that focusing on domestic service to the Family Islands was not a practical or lucrative piece of the aviation pie.
Another bone of contention is the licensing of foreign carriers.
Last week, Guardian Business revealed two foreign carriers lacked the proper certification to advertise their fares ahead of the winter season - a fact that was confirmed by the Department of Aviation.
Ormond Russell, the operations officer, said airlines should have this licensing before advertising fares.
Responding to the apparently discrepancy, Vanderpool-Wallace said it's "normal" for the carriers to advertise ahead of certification and an "asterisk was missed somewhere".
Since the report, the minister said one airline had received its certification and the other had signed a promotional agreement.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham yesterday dismissed concerns and questions raised by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) over Minister of Tourism Vincent Vanderpool Wallace's handling of a million-dollar marketing contract that his ministry entered into with an American company.
In internal communication, the minister's permanent secretary claimed he was the one who attracted that firm to the Ministry of Tourism.
The Nassau Guardian yesterday detailed the minister's efforts to save the contract from rescindment even after the government's lawyers and the most senior officials in his ministry concluded that the ministry was not receiving value for money and the contract was not in the best interest of taxpayers.
The PLP claimed the matter amounted to a scandal.
But Ingraham said yesterday he found it 'curious' that a reporter would ask him about the matter and not go to PLP Leader Perry Christie and ask him about his engagement as a consultant for an oil company.
Ingraham was drawing reference to Christie's previous admission in an interview with The Nassau Guardian that he was acting as a consultant for Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) through Davis & Co., the law firm of PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis, who represents the firm.
BPC wants to drill for oil in Bahamian waters.
Ingraham did not specifically address the matter involving the tourism minister.
He said the PLP "is not qualified to talk to me about the question of corruption and scandal".
"They have no credibility on the issue whatsoever," said Ingraham, pointing to various 'scandals' under the Christie administration.
"They are not qualified. I'm not going to waste my time talking about them."
The PLP said in a statement on Thursday evening, "It is so bad that the prime minister had to intervene in March to instruct the secretary to the Cabinet to have the contracts in question canceled.
"But the prime minister still has not taken any action against the minister, nor has the prime minister said anything about this matter to the public."
The PLP said it had only recently come into possession of the full facts in this matter.
In addition to the marketing contract that was eventually canceled by the cabinet secretary, the party pointed to another proposed contract the Ministry of Tourism's permanent secretary determined was also suspicious.
That second contract would have allowed a newly formed foreign company to provide online booking services for The Ministry of Tourism.
The two companies have the same principal.
Documents show that the marketing company collected a total of $825,000 before that contract was canceled.
When approached by The Nassau Guardian yesterday, Vanderpool-Wallace refused to get into the details of the matter, pointing to an earlier statement released by the Free National Movement (FNM).
That statement said, "It is clear that the PLP has decided that since they cannot address the significant growth in tourism that The Bahamas is currently experiencing, nor can they deny the significant loss of air arrivals that came as a result of their ineptitude, they are now grasping at straws to attack the bearer of the facts."
Vanderpool-Wallace told The Guardian yesterday, "Until now, I thought I was a small fry. All of a sudden I'm very important. I'm not quite sure why. I must have upset somebody."
He said there are all kinds of things that people stir up during election season.
Documents obtained by The Nassau Guardian on Thursday reveal a series of tension-filled correspondence between the minister and senior ministry officials.
In one of those communications, he suggests that Director General of Tourism David Johnson had failed to work with the marketing firm to provide effective marketing services for the country.
The minister in the communication to his permanent secretary also raised a series of other concerns about the director general, prompting the permanent secretary, Hyacinth Pratt, to come to Johnson's defense and point out that the minister did not object to his confirmation only weeks earlier.
But yesterday, Vanderpool-Wallace insisted that he had a wonderful relationship with his director general.
"We talk directly in terms of some of the things we want to fix and we want to do better on behalf of the Bahamian people and we continue to do so," he said.
While a document written by Pratt records the minister accusing her of having a vendetta against the marketing firm and suggesting that his director general was ineffective, the minister said yesterday he did not recall making those comments.
"But frankly, Mr. Johnson and I have always had a wonderful relationship and we try to do as best we can on behalf of the Bahamian people and we will continue to do so until the end of my time," he said.
In the documents, the minister also referenced a complete breakdown in marketing efforts related to Grand Bahama.
Vanderpool-Wallace refused to answer any more questions on the matter yesterday.
"Make no mistake about it. Our region is in the throes of the greatest crisis since independence. The specter of evolving into failed societies is no longer a subject of imagination. How our societies crawl out of this vicious vortex of persistent low growth, crippling debt, huge fiscal deficits and high unemployment is the single most important question facing us at this time".
That is not an assessment of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to be taken lightly. It is an assessment by a Caribbean prime minister who has also had the advantage of serving as legal advisor to the CARICOM Secretariat.
Dr. Kenny Anthony, the prime minister of St. Lucia, delivered this appraisal to a meeting of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry on October 31.
The prime minister's statement is so important to the present crunch in which CARICOM exists, and so crucial to its future path that one would have expected it to be a matter of discussion at all levels of society in the 15 member-states of CARICOM. Yet, beyond its brief reportage in some of the regional media, attention to this grave warning died almost immediately after it was spoken.
The reasons for the absence of widespread discussion including by the regional media, is probably because the Caribbean public has become accustomed to inaction by regional governments, institutions, and private sector organizations. Few would doubt the importance of what Dr. Anthony said and the urgency of addressing it. But all appear unconvinced that anyone will act decisively to change the situation. So, the appraisal alarming and forceful as it is evokes little more than resigned weariness in Caribbean publics.
This is a worrying condition for the CARICOM region. For, if the public has lost faith in the willingness of governments and institutions to act swiftly and together to extract them from crisis, the consequences will be even more serious. They will include increased emigration of the skilled persons in our societies, shrinkage of investment by local business people, and a general malaise in the productive sector. In short, it will lead to a worsening of the crisis.
The sad aspect of all this is that every leader in the member-states of CARICOM, in its institutions and in the private sector knows very well that deeper integration of Caribbean economies and closer harmonization of their external relations would be an immediate stimulus to pulling CARICOM countries out of what Dr. Anthony rightly describes as "this vicious vortex of persistent low growth, crippling debt, huge fiscal deficits and high unemployment".
What each CARICOM country needs is not more nationalism, but more regionalism. This is not to say that they should form a federation or political union, though, for the record, let me say it would be the best thing they could do. But, they have to stop operating as if, by themselves, they individually have the capacity either to deliver the public goods required by their people or to bargain effectively in the international community.
Again, Dr. Anthony crystallized this matter in his remarks when he said: "The issue we face is that our institutions, whether at the level of the state or supranationally, have not kept up with the times. This is the reality check that should have hit us, thanks to 2008 and the world financial crisis. And again, if we are to observe and learn from another epicenter of integration, Europe, this process is no simple undertaking, but requires unwavering commitment. What was also clear from 2008 is that we were still spending too much time using our integration machinery dealing with our insularities instead of charting an outward response to the looming global realities."
Well, what are some of those looming global realities with which CARICOM countries should be concerned?
Food security: CARICOM's food import bill now runs into billions of dollars and will escalate in the coming years; the fragility and cost of regional air transportation to support tourism and the absence of region-wide sea transportation to facilitate trade in goods; competition within the region from external nations, such as European exporters, who under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) will, over time, be landing goods and services and even opening businesses that will compete with local companies putting some of them out of business and reducing government revenues from tariffs; continuing erosion of preferences that certain key commodities from CARICOM countries have enjoyed, in the past, in the EU, US and Canadian markets; reduction in aid because, except for Haiti, CARICOM countries are regarded as middle income countries, and a continued restriction from concessional funds from international financial institutions for the same reason; the effects of global warming that demand adaptation infrastructure to stop sea-level rise from drowning huge parts of many countries, dislocating human habitats and destroying tourism infrastructure and agricultural production; and the lack of capacity to bargain effectively with larger countries and financial institutions on investment, trade and debt.
The list of issues identified here is by no means exhaustive, and they require bold thinking and courageous decision making including a resolve to pool sovereignty regionally to make each country stronger. Dr. Anthony diagnosed the ailments of the region accurately, though he stopped short of prescribing the medicine for curing them. But, he hinted at it when he said: "When appropriate, CARICOM must have the power and the resources to lead, setting both the objective and the tone of the dialogue, followed by a greater intensity of action".
There are many countries and agencies that are ready to help the countries of the region to progress, but they know that, apart from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and perhaps Guyana because of their natural resources, none of the Caribbean's countries can survive let alone prosper without the economies of scale and the bargaining strength that comes from deeper integration. As Dr. Anthony counselled, "the specter of evolving into failed societies is no longer a subject of imagination".
o Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat who publishes widely on small states in the global community. Send Responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com. Printed with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
Technology, financial predictions, the maritime industry and entertainment are some of the key areas that will be tackled at this year's Bahamas Business Outlook (BBO).
The one-day conference now in its 21st year of existence is an initiative hosted by The Counsellors Ltd.
Counsellors president and BBO's chief organizer, Joan Albury, shared with Guardian Business yesterday that this year's seminar, under the theme, "Vision Beyond Sight: How ready is The Bahamas to do 21st Century Business", will feature 11 presentations from experts in their respective fields.
"We are confident that there is something here for everybody. These speakers will tackle topics from tourism to technology, energy to entertainment, from finance to forecasts about the economic future of our country," Albury shared.
"No doubt, these new speakers will add fresh, new perspectives to some key issues which challenge our country today. Given the long recession and its global impact, vision is essential if we are to climb out of it with the ability to continue our development."
Speaking on the country's vision is partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers Gowon Bowe.
Bowe gave Guardian Business a sneak peek into his presentation.
"As a young Bahamian, looking at what we want to be in the future is very important, especially one with young children. Starting to think about what my vision is for The Bahamas, immediately I reflected on whether an actual vision was properly laid out," he noted.
"In my mind, there hasn't been one within the last 40 years. Since then, have we done anything to enhance it. I believe it is pertinent to think about the 21st century going forward, as we are now more than 10 years into it. We also need to start thinking of how we want to define The Bahamas locally along with our international counterparts."
One reason for this, Bowe said, is Bahamian governments have not clearly defined an economic stance for the country.
"In most world economies, governments are clear as to whether they are capitalists or socialists. In The Bahamas, when you look at major political parties you tend to find them trying to be both, as opposed to choosing one," Bowe explained.
"On one hand, we want economic diversification and on the other, Bahamian governments want to be able to assist residents with benefits. There must be a stand on what a country's economic policy is. Then a course needs to be charted behind it. If we don't have a vision of where we want to go, how will we even know if we have arrived."
Local entertainer, Fred Ferguson is also one of Thursday's featured speakers.
"With The Bahamas being a tourism driven nation, it is almost a given that the country's entertainment sector should play a very important part of our growth and development," he said.
"Over the years, we have not done what we should have to develop the industry. Entertainment can be a very powerful thing. "
Other presentations include State Finance Minister Zhivargo Laing with the keynote address, Tourism and Aviation Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace on "Looking Around the Corner", Astrid Wynter, the country's IDB representative on "Sustainable Partnerships for the Future" and Brian Moree, QC is presenting on "The Financial Services: A Wilderness Experience or Time to Enter the 'Promised Land'".
BBO takes place this Thursday at the Wyndham Nassau Resort from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Hoteliers on Cat Island are scratching their heads after taking a first peak at the new logo intended to represent them to the tourism world.
The logo, part of the national campaign to put the Family Islands on the map, has been met with confusion by the local community.
Tony Armbrister, the owner of Fernandez Bay Village, said none of the residents of Cat Island were consulted about its creation. As a result, reviews have been mixed.
"Cat Island is skeptical," he said. "It doesn't mean anything to anyone. It's all about Rake and Scrape. We aren't known for that. Cat Island historically is known as being the home of Voodoo. It's only in recent years they are promoting the Rake and Scrape Festival. It's not some huge historical moment."
The hotelier also expressed doubt as to whether the campaign will put the remote island on the map, saying "what needs to happen never will".
"Cat Island will continue to live in the shadows," he added.
Frank Wolff, the owner of Shanna's Cove, told Guardian Business the logo is "a little bit strange".
"It's not clear. You have to explain it. I am a foreigner, but it is very difficult with the locals. I think the general feeling is the logo is not properly explained."
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, the minister of tourism and aviation, officially announced the Family Island initiative at Caribbean Marketplace 2012 in January.
"These island groups need their own logo and feel," he said. "Sometimes the differences between the islands in the country are as different as other English-speaking countries."
Despite the confusion, hoteliers on Cat Island aren't complaining about the level of business.
Armbrister, whose hotel contains 19 units, said the hotel is seeing a 10 percent rise in occupancy since November. He felt the level of business recently has been very encouraging since the financial downturn started in 2008.
"I think the people we appeal to are tired about the recession. Most are recession proof as well. For a while people were cautious, but I think people are tired of it and deciding to just travel," he said.
Specializing in outdoor activities such as kayaking, snorkeling and bone fishing, he told Guardian Business the venue stays alive through repeat customers and its pristine setting.
Armbrister credits consistent and dedicated service from SkyBahamas as a major reason why hotels and other stakeholders on Cat Island have kept their heads above water, and up until recently, have actually seen a rise in business.
Sun Air has also begun service to Cat Island, although on a much smaller scale.
Wolff has expressed satisfaction about occupancy levels for the 2012 season thus far. While his property only consists of five cottages, he reported near full occupancy until the end of May. Similar to Armbrister, he said November proved to be a turning point - a trend also experienced throughout New Providence.
He also credited SkyBahamas with helping the hotel prosper.
"I think SkyBahamas is doing a good job," he explained. "They are very reliable. We talked with them about our business plan, and they called us. For our little resort, they are very helpful."
Exposure remains a challenge, he admitted, although "that is also the charm of Cat Island", he noted.
More than two-and-a-half years ago, Wolff visited Cat Island from Germany and fell in love. He was offered the property, and he and his wife pounced on the opportunity.
"I don't regret it for a day," he said.
Get ready for a night on the dance floor that you will not soon forget. The Rotary Clubs of The Bahamas' first celebratory ball in honor of its 50th anniversary promises to not be a "stuffy" affair. It's going to be the perfect blend of sophistication and fun to kick off ball season.
It will be a spectacular night of music, laughter and good company in the Crown Ballroom at Atlantis tonight from 7 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $150.
"This will be an exciting black tie affair and it is the perfect way to kick off this month of celebration for this important milestone for the Rotary Clubs," said Charles Sealy, assistant district governor of Rotary Clubs of The Bahamas. "There will be so many things going on throughout the night to keep people upbeat and excited. Whether you are a Rotarian or not you will have a great time."
With music by the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band, and loads of prizes to be given out throughout the night, Sealy says "spectacular" will be the word to associate with the evening.
"There will not be a dull moment all night," he promises. "From the music, the dance to the food and the decor, you will love what you see. It will be a real experience that people will enjoy from start to finish. And with loads of prizes to be given out throughout the night."
To add another dash of spice to the evening the menu is a foodie's delight that will be nothing short of divine from start to finish from the conch and plantain soup, crab encrusted bass to the spinach stuffed chicken breasts, sorbets, salads and signature guava pastries.
You will have a wonderful time while supporting a worthy cause. Rotary is a worldwide network of inspired individuals who translate their passions into relevant social causes to change lives in communities. Business, professional and community leaders volunteer their time and talents to serve communities locally and around the world -- and form strong, lasting friendships in the process.
With loads of prizes to be given out throughout the night. You will be around great people and the funds raised throughout the night will go toward rotary initiatives. So you will be having a good time and supporting a wonderful cause.
Whether you are looking to support the good cause that is Rotary, or just looking to attend a fabulous party, the Rotary Clubs of Nassau's first celebratory ball fits the bill.
Rotary International president Kainan Banerjee will address Bahamian Rotarians. He is expected to highlight the achievements of Rotary as an international organization and share the future goals of the historic 1.2 million global club with attendees. The Rotary Club of Miami, the club who sponsored the first rotary club in The Bahamas will also be in attendance for the ball.
"This occasion is a really significant one for local Rotarians and after so many years doing such good work in our country and supporting worldwide causes I think it is a great time to celebrate," says Sealy. "I believe the Rotary Club has been doing great work in assisting many causes, and it is great for us to have this time to celebrate what we have done and reflect on where we need to go. It is also a wonderful time to mingle with the public and all those who support us and our cause. So it will be a wonderful evening that will really celebrate who we are and the people who have helped us to achieve and continue to give back."
The ball also kicks off a month of events for the 50th anniversary of the Rotary's establishment in The Bahamas. Other events to look forward to throughout the weeks include a bed race, an awards reception, bowling competition and even a golf tournament.
When: Friday, January 6
Where: Crown Ballroom, Atlantis
Time: 7 p.m. - 12 a.m.
Dress code: Black tie
Schedule of Events
Sunday, January 8
8 a.m. - Christ Church Cathedral Service
Wednesday, January 11
8 p.m. - Bowling Tournament
Mario's Bowling and Family Entertainment Palace
Friday, January 13
12:30 p.m. - Golf Tournament
Ocean Club golf course
Saturday, January 14
11 a.m. - 3 p.m. - Rotary photo display and blood drive
Mall at Marathon
Sunday, January 15
5 a.m. - Marathon Bahamas
8 a.m. - Boiled fish brunch at Marathon Bahamas
Tuesday, January 17
Movie Night and After Party
Galleria 6 - John F. Kennedy Drive
Thursday, January 19
7 p.m. - 50th Anniversary Banquet
Hilton Hotel Poolside and Garden
Saturday, January 28
Annual Bed Race for Charity
Mall at Marathon