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News Article
Christie’s Great Estates Conference In Toronto
October 07, 2010

Branding was the conference theme that drew business principals
and owners from the Christie’s Great Estates network to Toronto this week. Affiliates, such as the affiliate for the Bahamas John Christie of HG Christie Ltd., previewed the network’s global expansion strategy, viewed the company’s new Web site to be rolled out publically by year’s end, and learned how to better utilize the resources of the parent company, Christie’s, to build business through art and real estate introductions.

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News Article

March 07, 2012
The National Health Insurance debate

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).

Concerns remain
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: column@cfal.com.

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News Article

June 04, 2014
Law firm sponsors STEP conference

Higgs and Johnson was a luncheon sponsor of the 2014 STEP Caribbean Conference held at Atlantis last month.
Under the theme "Exploring the Possibilities", the conference considered the prospects that accompany the notion that Caribbean IFCs (international financial centers) will continue to grow and leverage their respective strengths in a world where change is the norm.
The conference tackled a myriad of issues facing the trust practitioner, including the changing face of the client and dealing with complexities of running a trust business locally, regionally and globally, as well as the increasing impact of technology.
The STEP Caribbean Conference continued to attract a cadre of world-class speakers and provided the latest in professional development and learning while creating an opportunity for discussion, dialogue and networking.
Nadia J. Fountain, partner, was a co-presenter with Tara Frater, senior associate at Lex Caribbean's Barbados office. They presented on the topic "Trustees as shareholders". Nadia highlighted the standard of care, risks, limitations and due diligence requirements that are associated with this particular dynamic.
In her capacity as a board member of STEP Bahamas, Nadia said: "I was proud to be a part of the STEP Bahamas branch as we featured our jurisdiction at this year's conference. Through events such as these, The Bahamas is able to showcase the importance of the financial services industry in this jurisdiction and also highlight the depth of our expertise with a large number of local trust professionals participating and representing our world class talent pool."
Chair of the private client and wealth management group, Dr. Earl A. Cash, attended along with senior associate, Tom Mylott, from the company's Cayman office, and associates Theo Burrows and Lisalette Gibson, who had responsibility for manning the Higgs and Johnson booth.

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News Article

October 07, 2010
Our Lucaya to give back to the Children on Grand Bahama

Freeport, Grand Bahama-
Slated to be the biggest event of the fall calendar, the 30th
Anniversary celebrations for the Grand Bahama Children's Home is an
annual fundraiser for abandoned and neglected children of the island.

Set for Friday, October the 15th, at the Crescent pool of Our Lucaya,
the fundraiser will also be a celebration of the Children's Home's 30
years of service to the children of Bahamas. "I can still remember the
first Children's Home," said Shelia Smith, Executive Committee Member.
"We used drawers for cribs for the babies, because of lack of space -
we've come a long way to where we are now thanks to the community...

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News Article

January 20, 2012
Sheraton unveils rebranding campaign

With a new name under its belt and diversified areas of focus including spa services and gaming, the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino is heading into 2012 with one simple objective, to take its reputation as one of the Caribbean's most family-friendly beach resorts to the next level, emerging as a multi-faceted destination geared to a diverse audience of world travelers and locals.
"As part of Baha Mar - one of the world's most exciting new tourism developments - the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino's mission is to elevate our reputation as a leading family-friendly property, but also to diversify our approach and concentrate on promoting all that we have to offer," said Manny Corral, the resort's director of sales and marketing.  "We believe our resort is poised for success in 2012 and beyond."
 
Families
The Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino's Love Your Family Program provides families the opportunity to connect while on vacation.  The resort's family activities include drive-in movies throughout the week, as well as fireside storytelling and Bahamian Idol, a talent competition that brings the whole family together to cheer each other on.  In 2012, the resort will continue evolving its offerings for families, including the addition of new activities for children of all ages, and themed holiday family programs.
 
Food and wine
The resort houses six restaurants and lounges, serving a variety of island specialties and international cuisine.  The resort's award-winning food and beverage team creates an exceptional culinary experience, from casual dining at the Dolphin Grill to authentic Italian delicacies at Amici, A Trattoria, perfect for any occasion.  In 2012, the resort will roll out a redesigned, interactive cooking program for guests, along with other new food and wine-focused activities.
 
Casino
The Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino has recently changed its name to recognize the world-class Crystal Palace Casino, easily accessible to guests of the resort.  The casino houses over 400 slot machines and 25 table games including Blackjack, Craps, Poker and more.
Easily accessible to travelers throughout the United States and Canada, the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino is located 15 minutes from Nassau's Lynden Pindling International Airport, which is serviced by a number of domestic and international carriers.  The resort is set on a 1,000-foot stretch of Nassau's spectacular white-sand beaches, with 694 oceanview guest rooms and suites.  The property boasts an incredible waterscape, including three freshwater pools, flowing waterfalls, a swim-up bar, and oversized whirlpools nestled among tropical landscaping.

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News Article

January 06, 2012
The perfect blend of sophistication and fun

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.

Rotary Ball
When: Friday, January 6
Where: Crown Ballroom, Atlantis
Time: 7 p.m. - 12 a.m.
Cost: $150
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
Western Esplanade
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

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News Article

May 16, 2014
AG touts initiatives aimed at improving efficiency of judiciary

Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said yesterday the government is moving to close all of the "escape routes" that contribute to the inefficiency in the judicial system.
Most recently, she noted that the government tabled proposed ammendments to the Juries Act in Parliament, which seek to widen the jury pool and prevent unnecessary delays in criminal trials.
Maynard-Gibson said those amendments, coupled with the establishment of a public defenders office, timely delivery of transcripts and reduction in scheduling conflicts involving lawyers, will ultimately lead to a more efficient system.
She said the courts will introduce an integrated system, which will allow officials to determine whether lawyers have commitments before the courts to guard against conflicts.
As it relates to the public defenders office, the government is in the process of setting that up, Maynard-Gibson said.
The Nassau Guardian understands that six lawyers have been identified to work in the office, which will be managed by the Legal Aid Clinic.
Maynard-Gibson said previously that she hopes that there will be a system where people would have legal representation from the time they are arrested.
On Wednesday, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez tabled the proposed amendments to the Juries Act.
The bill aims to "improve the efficiency of criminal trials".
It would expand the jury pool to include family island residents who would be provided with accommodations and a stipend during their service.
It would also place an age limit of 70 on people eligible to sit on a jury.
Maynard-Gibson said the amendments would contribute "tremendously" to the court's efficiency.
The late delivery of transcripts has also contributed to delays in court.
Last year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) highlighted challenges associated with generating and sharing court transcripts with the relevant stakeholders as one of the main reasons the justice system cannot meet the public's demand.
"It is therefore critical that these records are made available to all involved parties within a reasonable timeframe that is as prompt as possible without sacrificing the accuracy or overall veracity of the finished product," the IDB said.
"The best way to make such records promptly available is to convert the system to digitalized technology."
Maynard-Gibson said the Office of the Attorney General has sought to address that issue as well.
She said the government hopes to introduce a digital recording system by the end of this year.
She added that once all of these problems are addressed, the judicial system would be much improved.

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News Article

March 14, 2014
Booming Palm Cay creates nearly 100 local jobs

With construction booming and interest continuing to build, the sprawling beachfront and marina community of Palm Cay is benefiting nearly 100 people who are working either directly for the development or for contractors and subcontractors on the job.
Having already quadrupled its full time local team in sales, operations and marina services in less than a year, the waterfront, family-oriented community along New Providence's southeastern shore is also creating opportunities for more than 80 construction workers.
From unskilled labor to skilled carpenters, plumbers and electricians, they are working on a five-year project that includes beachfront and ocean view townhomes, a five-phase condominium project and numerous individual homes on single family residential lots.
They are also putting the finishing touches on a beachfront restaurant, to be called The Billfish Grill, which is expected to open by month's end and Chives Dockside, a casual eatery, that will open a short while later. They have already completed tennis courts, a clubhouse and numerous other amenities, including two swimming pools and extensive walkways, infrastructure, lighting, electrical and other works.
"We are a hive of activity right now. Interest continues to grow, and construction with it," said Sales and Marketing Director Zack Bonczek.
"After the success of our first townhomes and single family lots, we actually had to launch phase one of our condo project, The Anchorage, ahead of schedule."
With construction of Phase I underway and nearly all of the units already spoken for, Bonczek said work is also continuing on several family lots, as well as the luxurious beachfront Starfish Isle townhomes.
"Demand continues to build," he said. "And with three more phases of The Anchorage to come and some exciting new offerings in the pipeline, we look forward to creating opportunities for even more Bahamians."
According to Bonczek, the appeal of Palm Cay is the result of its unique mix of top drawer amenities, beautiful beachfront views, elegantly appointed units and an already flourishing community atmosphere.
It also boasts a marina that is the closest to Exuma and with 194 slips, the largest in New Providence in terms of capacity.

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News Article

September 24, 2010
NEW FLIGHT FROM CANADA ON THE WAY

By JAMMAL SMITH
Guardian Business Reporter
jammal@nasguard.com
Another Canadian airline could possibly be landing on Bahamian runways in the future with Guardian Business learning that the country is in negotiations with a flight carrier from Canada.
Air Transat could be the newest airline from Canada offering services to The Bahamas if an agreement is reached between the two countries. Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace told Guardian Business that no final agreement has been reached yet, and several details must be ironed out before the deal is officially done.
"This is really only the opportunity for us to develop a partnership but we haven't finalized as yet,...

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News Article

September 08, 2010
Airport's fees hike 'may drive airlines away'

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

THE leading global air transport body has urged the Government and Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) not to implement planned 2011 increases to aircraft landing fees and a host of other charges, warning that this could drive carriers to either reduce service frequency or exit the Nassau market altogether.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 230 airlines accounting for 93 per cent of the world's commercial aviation traffic, warned in an August 11, 2010, letter sent to NAD and Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, minister of tourism and aviation, that airlift and tourist arrivals to the Bahamas could be negatively impa ...

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