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The chairman of the largest Bahamian bank delivered a power-packed report to shareholders yesterday, mixing positive news of an upbeat start to this fiscal year with a serious message: 2013 will not be about growth, but about stability and strength.
"We will forego growth in favor of prudence and that will keep Commonwealth Bank strong, stable and profitable, the number one Bahamian bank in the nation," declared William B. Sands Jr., addressing hundreds who filled the large conference room at SuperClubs Breezes for the all-Bahamian-owned and operated bank's annual general meeting (AGM). With net income of $36 million in fiscal 2012 despite loan write-offs of $44 million, and little hope for major economic recovery until Baha Mar opens in late 2014, Sands said the bank would continue on its conservative path.
"In 2013, the bank will maintain its focus on the consumer market which has served us well," the bank's CFO Patrick McFall said. "Recognizing the challenges of the day, we also intend to be led by quality over quantity. This means we will forego growth over prudence believing that this will benefit the bank and consequently benefit you our shareholders in the long term."
President Ian Jennings echoed and reinforced the conservative path, outlining areas including online banking where the bank with branches in Nassau, Grand Bahama and Abaco would look for modest growth. It also plans to introduce mobile banking. The single physical expansion, Jennings said, would be the Oakes Field branch which, he noted, had outgrown the capacity needed to serve the public. That branch is temporarily closed, the victim of fire less than one week later during the height of a major electrical and rainstorm May 21. Work on the branch, initially scheduled for the fourth quarter, is now expected to be advanced to an earlier date. Meantime, the bank has relocated its Oakes Field branch operations to the Burns House building on John F. Kennedy Drive and Bethel Avenue, a move it made in record time, some eight days after fire forced the closure of the Oakes Field branch.
Despite references to the five-year-long recession, the bank paid $28.5 million in shareholder dividends in 2012, maintaining its policy of sharing 65 percent of income with the more than 4,000 shareholders from every walk of life. And on the day of the AGM, Commonwealth Bank's share price hit the highest price traded this year - $6.79.
"The highest traded shares of BISX reflects the desirability of the shares even in uncertain times," said Jennings, crediting effective management and "absolute dedication to excellence in service by all the management and staff of Commonwealth Bank."
Along with additional scrutiny that goes into every lending transaction now, Jennings and McFall said tighter controls had netted higher efficiency ratios. Those recession-bred refinements, however, will not alter the formula for success identified by Commonwealth Bank, the widespread, broad-based consumer loan with the average loan in the $16,000 range to avoid catastrophic loss in a single default.
The bank also took preemptive action, passing a resolution to amend the rights of $50 million of authorized by unissued preference share capital so they would be well-positioned to comply with the international capital accord known as Basel III. The president said the bank wanted to address the issue in the next two to three years rather than wait until 2023 when the accord would be fully implemented.
For an annual general meeting in a challenging economy, it could go on record as one of the liveliest and most enthusiastic.
After reporting the full extent of mixed news culminating in a better than expected first quarter with more than $12 million in profit, the president took a question from a member of the audience that stunned everyone.
"You all did such a great job I think you should give yourselves more money and then we can all get more dividends, too," she said.
Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade announced yesterday that a police liaison officer will be assigned to each government school when schools re-open in September.
Greenslade and other government officials, including the Director of the Immigration Department Jack Thompson, met with public school principals during a forum at SuperClubs Breezes Resort yesterday morning to discuss crime and immigration related issues affecting the public school system.
School violence has been a major concern in public schools, especially in New Providence, over the last few years. The Department of Education and police have had to respond to fights, stabbings and at least one homicide on or near New Providence public schools.
"I've assured principals that they are fully in control of their schools and we stand in full support of them," Greenslade said.
"But we will be more than happy to ensure that there's a school liaison officer assigned to every school in The Bahamas. We have sufficient officers to deal with that and they should be available at all times to the schools and any issues that needs to be pushed further up will be handled by our officers."
Greenslade's announcement came fours years after the Free National Movement (FNM) administration dismantled the school policing program left in place by the last Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration.
This program involved stationing police at public schools.
That initiative was replaced with a community policing approach through which officers are stationed outside schools during peak hours (7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.).
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and his government have held to the position that police officers do not belong in schools.
Director of Immigration Jack Thompson yesterday called on school principals to report unregularized students who register at their institutions, saying the Department of Immigration intends to "flush out" undocumented foreign nationals enrolled in the public school system.
Thompson, who was speaking at a forum for public school principals yesterday morning at SuperClubs Breezes, said The Bahamas can not afford to have illegal immigrants in the public school system "absorbing our resources."
"You should call me and tell me where they are living because I have to deal with them," Thompson told the principals.
"We have to hit at the root. The root is the parent. I am not in the business of sending the children home and not the parents or sending the parents and not sending the children. We have to send them together.
"All of them must go and they must go as soon as possible because we can't have people illegally residing and going to school and absorbing our resources. You know how the community feels about this. The communities are outraged."
He pointed out that the children who are not Bahamians should be in receipt of a permit to reside.
Thompson noted that the permit to reside card is similar to a Bahamian driver's license.
He said his department has to begin a dialogue with the Department of Education "so we can flush out and unclog the system because there is a lot of concern."
Thompson stressed that immigration officials will not target the undocumented children but will go after their parents and deal with both simultaneously.
Public school officials cannot refuse to register illegal immigrants, as according to Bahamian law, all children residing in The Bahamas have the right to an education.
"This is a balancing act, because while on one hand you can not deny education, by the same token we have a responsibility to crack down and to deal with this issue," Thompson said.
Children who are born to Bahamian women, whether married or single, have the automatic right to citizenship. Only in cases where a non-Bahamian woman is married to a Bahamian man is the child automatically granted citizenship.
Children born in The Bahamas to single women who are not residents of The Bahamas have a right to apply for citizenship when they turn 18.
Thompson said immigration officers never round up illegal immigrants at schools, hospitals or clinics and churches.
"That is a no, no," he said. "While we have a job to do, we have to do things the right way."
He said apprehension exercises will take place in the communities where they live.
While he had no official count, Thompson said there are "a number" of children attending school without proper documentation.
He said it is the department's policy to ask undocumented migrants to leave the country and apply to be regularized through the proper means.
"What we are challenged with now is, should we regularize someone while they are here in the country? Should we regularize someone after they have been here for five years?
"So we're often criticized when we send people back but if we start regularizing persons who are here to start with, then I'm not sure what message we are sending."
Director of Education Lionel Sands, who also attended the forum, told principals that they should work along with the Department of Immigration in its efforts.
Graduates of the C.C. Sweeting High School Work Based Learning Programme were reminded that they might never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that as they graduate high school they should decide to be strong, confident A-grade employees.
Elma Garraway, former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, told the members of the sixth graduation class, of which Micheal Hanna was the top academic student, to decide that with determination, hope and commitment they can achieve their goals.
"It is my prayer that you will make wise decisions and remain safe as you move forward, upward and onward in your new role as a responsible adult, citizen and proud alumni of C.C. Sweeting Senior High School," said Garraway.
For those students seeking further training and educational experiences, Garraway reminded them that financial aid was available for them at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute and that short courses can be found on a part-time basis in most of the technical and business areas.
The former education permanent secretary, who was also an educator, said it's never too late to learn anything their mind's can conceive of.
"You must be prepared to defy the odds [and] intend to win," said Garraway.
The former permanent secretary shared with the young men seven traits identified by the American Association of Technical and Vocational Education sent to her by Dr. Iva Dahl, the manager/consultant at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute, that she said would ensure success once followed -- attitude, attendance, appearance, ambition, accountability, acceptance and appreciation.
"Positive people are in short supply, but are in high demand. Display good manners at all times and never let anyone determine how you should behave," Garraway said.
Garraway told them to be on time every time, as punctuality speaks to character and will give their supervisors an impression about how they feel about their jobs. She reminded them of an old adage: "The early bird catches the worm."
"You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Dress the part you were hired to play or would wish to play," she said.
The educator also said that their ambitions would show that they value knowledge and to always learn, read and continue their educations and training.
"Exceed the expectations of those around you and show that you are invaluable to your employer. My advice to you is to write down three goals you would wish to achieve. Look at them every week and evaluate how you are working to achieve them," she said.
Garraway reminded the graduating students to be accountable and people of integrity. She told them to always demonstrate that they can be trusted to complete all tasks assigned without being watched.
"Be honest in all things, and be the kind of person you would trust to work for you," she said.
She told them that they always need to be accepting of rules and regulations of the job, the country and the Bible and to respect authority and those placed in leadership positions.
"Be a good team player. And remember that in order to be a leader you must be a good follower," she said.
The former teacher reminded the graduates to always show appreciation and to go beyond the call of duty to give good service and be reminded that every satisfied customer is a repeat customer. She told them their supervisors would value their service.
The C.C. Sweeting Work Based Learning Programme is an all-male cohort started in September 2007 by the school's former Principal Delores Ingraham. Its motto is: "It's Better to Build a Boy than to Repair a Man."
The main objective of the program is to act as an intervention for twelfth grade male students -- to reduce the dropout rate among high school male students who are challenged academically; to ensure that the students participating in the program achieve a skill/trade; to provide students with the opportunity for gainful employment. (If they work well enough on the job, the company may hire them for the summer and then full time); to expose the students to hands-on, on-the-job training opportunities; improve the number of male students satisfactorily completing high school; and provide participants with the opportunity to sit the Bahamas Junior Certificate examination for math, English language and health science if they have not done so.
Students attend school twice per week to receive instruction in the core subjects and report to the work site of their career choice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are mentored while acquiring a skill as they are exposed to various skill sets like air condition repair, auto repair, bodywork, landscaping, plumbing, hotel training, videography and welding while still completing high school.
Over 120 students have passed through the program since its inception. The program has an 80 percent completion average.
Current Work Based Learning Programme work sites are E & U Watercoolers, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Junkanoo Beach Resort, Superclubs Breezes and The Royal Bahamas Police Force Garage.
Immigration Department Director Jack Thompson yesterday revised remarks he made Thursday on the issue of undocumented migrant children in the school system, emphasizing that his department does not intend to enter schools and remove children who do not have legal status to be in the country.
Thompson, who was speaking at a forum for public school principals Thursday morning at SuperClubs Breezes, said The Bahamas cannot afford to have illegal immigrants in the public school system.
"You should call me and tell me where they are living because I have to deal with them," Thompson told the principals on that occasion.
"We have to hit at the root. The root is the parent. I am not in the business of sending the children home and not the parents, or sending the parents and not sending the children. We have to send them together. "All of them must go and they must go as soon as possible because we can't have people illegally residing and going to school and absorbing our resources. You know how the community feels about this. The communities are outraged."
Yesterday, in a statement, Thompson emphasized a point he made at the event Thursday while backing away from some of his more aggressive remarks made at the education forum. He said his department will be humane as it carries out its duties.
"The director emphasized that as a matter of policy the church, schools and clinics were off limits for apprehension exercises," said Thompson's statement.
Thompson also stressed Thursday, while calling on educators to inform his department of undocumented students, that immigration officials would not target these children. Instead, he added, they would goafter their parents and deal with families simultaneously.
"Administrators were told that students of foreign nationals attending schools should apply to the Department of Immigration for a residency permit or permit to reside. It was emphasized that while students should not be denied the right of a basic education, records by the Department to Immigration are critical for future applications - i.e., permanent residence (and) citizenship," said Thompson yesterday.
The public school system in The Bahamas does not bar children from receiving an education if they have no legal status in the country.
In these challenging times, a conference that seeks to empower women to face life's challenges, change their circumstances and assist with building their self-worth while helping them to discover who they really are is just what is needed.
With that in mind, the Woman of Worth Ministries International will host this year's worship summit under the theme "Positioned For Such A Time As This."
The conference takes place May 24-25 at the SuperClubs Breezes. The conference starts at 7 p.m. on Friday and at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
"Things are changing around us daily and you need to be equipped with the correct tools to be effective in this season," said conference host Minister Lorna Jay Simmons. "We feel that it is important to take time out to be renewed, refreshed and refueled to have an encounter that will help prepare us for our promise," she said.
Reverend Eileen Johnson from the Church of God; Patricia Womack from the Libert Worship Center Church of God of Prophecy, Atlanta, Georgia; Pastor Cleopatra Williams from Life Changers Ministries International; Minister Nadene Moss and Minister Necole Watson are also scheduled to speak at the conference.
The conference's focus will be on awakening the awareness that women have been strategically placed to complete an assignment given to them by God for the body of Christ, family and society.
The conference, for which there is a $50 per person fee (a group rate for five or more is available) targets single, married, mature, young, professional, hurting, broken and strong women who are thirsty for refreshment.
Minister Simmons said whatever women are going through -- whether they're downtrodden or flying high, they can find their place and purpose through God.
The Bahamas Anti-Doping Commission (BADC) received high praise from the minister of youth, sports and culture at the opening of its Dope Control Training Seminar last weekend.
Minister Charles Maynard was effusive in his compliments, pointing out that despite a number of challenges, the commission rose to the occasion and did a lot of work in a relatively short time.
"I have to compliment you Dr. (Jerome) Lightbourne, the chairman, you and other members of the commission. A really good job has been done," said Minister Maynard.
He expressed satisfaction that the commission is fully structured with key components, the Disciplinary, the Appeals and Therapeutic panels in place. The minister was equally impressed with the solid turnout of professional persons in the medical field who registered as trainees with the desire to be certified as doping control officers (DCOs).
Also, in further demonstrating full confidence in the commission, Minister Maynard predicted that such a good job will be done in monitoring the scene, that the Disciplinary and Appeals bodies would not have any matters to deal with.
The BADC's Dope Control Training Seminar was staged at Superclubs Breezes January 19-21 over three days. A total of 28 trainees took part in the sessions that were conducted by representatives of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Theresa Reynolds, the USADA's resources manager and her assistant, Laura Hahn, were exceptional in advancing knowledge to the trainees during the seminar.
They both were satisfied with the level of understanding demonstrated by the trainees and came to the conclusion that the trainees will do positive work for the BADC as it moves forward with the 'Clean Sports' theme.
Present for the seminar and providing some insight to Reynolds and Hahn in how the dope control process worked here in the past were Nurse Beatrice Arthur, Dr. Ricardo Davis and Dr. Julian Stewart. They were the lone DCOs in the country before the certification of the trainees. Nurse Arthur has been appointed chief doping control officer.
BADC Chairman Lightbourne who welcomed participants and guests at the opening ceremony on the first evening, termed the seminar successful.
"I am satisfied that the seminar was quite successful. The amount of trainees who came out and the fact that we had representation from New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco and Andros, is proof that we've got a good bit of interested partners to work with as we push our program," said Dr. Lightbourne.
By PAUL G TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOUNDER and chairman of SuperClubs Breezes John Issa said that he is pleased that the government of the Bahamas has agreed to go ahead with the $2.6 billion Baha Mar project on Cable Beach.
Saying that such a development is not only good for the hotel industry, but for the Bahamas as a whole, Mr Issa said that this new influx of construction and activity will be a welcome change.
"This is a good thing that something is happening, because, like the Prime Minister said in his press conference, there are hotel rooms on Cable Beach unused - for two years in a row now the casino has been closed in the slow periods, so somethi ...
Nassau, Bahamas - "On behalf of all
exhibitors, the organizers of the annual Bahamas Bridal Show wish to
thank every person and company for their efforts and contributions to
another successful event," said show executive producer Tommy Stubbs,
general manager at Buttons Bridal & Formal Wear which organizes the
annual event. "We are always pleased with the enthusiasm of the
hundreds of brides and grooms and the thousands of show followers who
make the bridal show the No.1 social event of the year."
Breezes took the spotlight during the trade exhibition as the
all-inclusive resort took up a large portion of the ballroom serving
sample Asian food for hours. Other notable exhibitors included the
British Colonial Hilton, Burns House, Arawak Homes, Colina Insurance,
Noveltease, Grand Bahama Development Co. Ltd., Template, Bahamas
Local.Com, Jewels by The Sea, Bristol Wines & Spirits and Bertha's
Go-Go Ribs Catering...