Fri, Jul 31st 2015, 09:33 PM
The government has determined that it would be "inappropriate" to proceed with provisional liquidators from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) after PwC notified the government it had a potential conflict of interest given its previous involvement with China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC).
The government's legal counsel made the revelation in the Supreme Court as Justice Ian Winder heard its application to wind up Baha Mar and bring it under control of Bahamian courts. The government listed Prince Rahming, Gowon Bowe and Garth Galow of PwC as prospective liquidators.
Attorney Peter Knox, who heads the government's legal team in the winding up petition, said PwC indicated in a letter on Thursday that it had previously acted for CSCEC, representing a potential conflict of interest. Knox said this was news to the government as there was no previous indication of a conflict or potential conflict of interest. He told the court that the government has engaged three prospective provisional liquidators from Ernst & Young Chartered Accountants: Michele Thompson, Karen Hutchison and Roy Bailey.
According to Knox, CSCEC previously expressed "reservations" about PwC acting as provisional liquidators. However, he said the company indicated yesterday that it would not object to PwC assisting the government in the winding up proceedings. The government moved to wind up the troubled resort in recent weeks after Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. district of Delaware at the end of June.
The government has said the move was with a view to complete the stalled project on Cable Beach. Maurice Glinton, legal counsel for Baha Mar, said that in affidavits, Bowe, Galow and Rahming stated that they carried out conflict checks. He expressed surprise that the court was now hearing of a potential conflict, calling it an "embarrassment".
The government requested an August 10 adjournment as a result of the change in provisional liquidators. Knox acknowledged that negotiations among Baha Mar and its stakeholders were ongoing and said the government "anticipates an agreement will be reached very soon". He said if an agreement is reached among the parties, the winding up petition would be unnecessary.
Glinton argued for a three-week adjournment to allow for the proper enquiries to be made on the new provisional liquidators. He said the additional time will aid in ensuring no further embarrassment to the court. Winder adjourned the winding up hearing to August 19. Baha Mar's application for leave to appeal Winder's refusal to recognize U.S. orders for creditor protection in The Bahamas last Wednesday will be heard on August 4. Outside of court, Knox declined to speak to the media. Glinton told reporters the entire winding up process has been "lacking in good faith, and that indeed it has been abusive".
"Now we know by the position with Gowon Bowe now having to withdraw, along with his other partner, that, in fact, they (conflicts) always existed," he said. "They should have known, but this is all part of what it is we have to meet, and have had to meet. "This whole process has been lacking in good faith, and that indeed it has been abusive of this.
"There are a lot of interests, which are at stake, and my clients investment in this country and concern for making sure that we get that place going and people get back to work, is one which is at the forefront of his (Izmirlian) concerns."
Fri, Jul 31st 2015, 09:29 PM
Free National Movement Chairman Michael Pintard said that the results of the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival report were what he expected but he was "quite disappointed" by the explanation given by the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) for the more than $6 million loss the event suffered. According to the report released by BNFC, the government spent $12.9 million on the inaugural Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival and made $6.68 million in taxes and direct revenue. The price tag went nearly $4 million over the $9 million originally budgeted, according to the commission.
"At a very philosophical level it is never about how much the government makes off a carnival," said BNFC Chairman Paul Major, during a presentation to the media at the Office of the Prime Minister this week.
"By comparison, in Trinidad the government spends somewhere around US$30 million a year. "...Talk to Toronto, talk to Notting Hill Carnival and ask them how much the government invests in carnival, and how much do they get? What is the profit and loss?
"I challenge you. Call them and [ask], 'How much did you make off carnival? You have been doing it for 50 years. How much did you make this year?' "And they will all tell you, 'Nothing.'" Pintard said that he believes the explanation given by Major does not pay respect to the many intelligent Bahamians out there.
"Firstly, the event did not put heads in bed," Pintard said.
"By their own admission a very small number of tourists attended the events and they could not provide us with how many of those tourists, less than 1,000, would have travelled specifically for that. We believe it's probably less that 100." Of the estimated 115,000 people who attended the carnival events, Major estimated that 900 of them were visitors. "Their stated objectives were not met," Pintard said.
"So they are now mentioning other goal posts, other markers by which we should measure the success of carnival." At the presentation, Major declared carnival "undoubtedly a success", saying criticisms of the event are misplaced. He insisted that carnival should not be analyzed as a "profit and loss" exercise, but as an economic stimulus with enormous potential for the future.
Pintard challenged "strong advocates" who wish for more money to be allocated to carnival to demonstrate their confidence in the event by investing their own funds.
"I am very doubtful that government ministers and those persons who administrated this event would ask the government merely for a subvention and that they would make up the shortfall by raising funds through sponsorship and secondly investing their personal funds. I'm very doubtful that they will go that way," Pintard said.
The FNM chairman further claimed that it is his belief that the government never intended for carnival to be a profitable venture or a stimulus package for the cultural sector.
"In my estimation it was a means of spreading a tremendous amount of resources throughout the community to appease those that have been suffering because of failed PLP policies," Pintard said. "And that is why they were very strategic in the ways in which they sought to set up or encourage the setting up of companies.
"The many persons who were employed doing non-essential jobs during this period, and I'm happy that those families were able to eat, but I never bought, and today do not buy, that the government was single-mindedly focused on stimulating the cultural sector."
Pintard recommended that if the government is confident that carnival has been a resounding success and can bring in money in the future, then allow the corporate community an opportunity to invest and use the additional millions that would have been invested on carnival in an endowment for the arts. He said that there are numerous ways that the government can build the infrastructure for cultural development that will not seek to use someone else's culture and rebrand it as the country's own.
"Strengthen the writers of The Bahamas by creating an infrastructure for them to succeed, link the musicians of The Bahamas with record labels and create a showpiece where persons from around the world can observe and listen to Bahamian music," Pintard said.
When asked whether the FNM is willing to support Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival in the future, Pintard said that if the government is prepared to brand any mega event as a Bahamian event and not appropriate another culture and superimpose it on Bahamian culture, then it will be something the party is willing to support.
Fri, Jul 31st 2015, 09:25 PM
The owner of Nassau's latest boutique hotel, The Island House, said there has been huge demand for the property since its doors opened last month. According to Mark Holowesko, the 30-room hotel "fills a void" in the island's tourism portfolio, where smaller, community-focused properties have become scarce with the rise of the mega-resort model.
"We have a lot of big hotels in terms of the number of rooms," Holowesko said during an official opening ceremony earlier this year. "There's a certain clientele that wants that but there's a huge number of people around the world that want to come to The Bahamas and stay at smaller properties, get more of a local feel and interact more with the community."
This assessment of current trends in tourism is correct. Today's high-net-worth individuals from the United States, Europe and emerging economies in Asia and South America are willing to scour the globe in search of intimate, luxurious, eco-friendly resorts. Most of all, they crave experiences featuring interaction with a destination's authentic heritage - both cultural and natural.
For decades, The Bahamas has traded on its reputation of "sun, sand and sea", yet the rich biodiversity of this nation has a great deal more to offer the intrepid, adventurous traveler. Meanwhile, our visual and musical culture has occupied less and less of a central role in our tourism product. The Island House does more than simply fill a void and keep pace with emerging trends, however. As a fully Bahamian-owned, Bahamian-financed, Bahamian-built resort, it exemplifies what may be the ideal model for future tourism development in the country.
Over the last 40 years, meaningful Bahamian ownership in the industry has remained an elusive national ambition, particularly in New Providence and Grand Bahama. It is unrealistic to imagine that the mega-resort model will be dominated by local investment at any point in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, projects on the size and scale of The Island House are not beyond the reach of established Bahamian business interests - or for that matter, groups of young, ambitious, aspiring entrepreneurs.
Smaller high-end projects tend to create a diverse range of lucrative employment opportunities, as the wealthy traveler will pay top dollar for authentic, interactive experiences guided by local experts. In addition, such resorts can act as a shot in the arm to nearby businesses, forming a close and mutually beneficial economic relationship with the surrounding community in a way that larger all-inclusive resorts sometimes fail to. Our politicians have always been eager to announce the arrival of large-scale foreign direct investment, particularly the big job numbers that tend to go with it. While it may not offer the same kind of instant gratification, encouraging and incentivizing smaller, home grown, sustainable resort projects may ultimately prove to be a wiser strategy in the long run.
The Holowesko family is therefore to be commended, not only for investing in The Bahamas and creating employment opportunities for Bahamians, but also for pointing the way forward for anyone ambitious enough to follow.
Fri, Jul 31st 2015, 09:07 PM
In the spirit of reviving one of the country's oldest sporting disciplines, the 'Edukarting' program is offering local youth the chance to learn about what it takes to have a career in motor sports, while offering development opportunities outside of the athletic arena as well.
The 'Edukarting' Summer Camp Kart Club is a one-week program taught by industry professionals to encourage a love of motor sports, team building and an introduction to associated disciplines with future marketable skills including media studies, marketing, creativity, automotive repairs, mechanics and business and financial skills.
The first session will be held August 3-7, while the second one will take place August 10-14. Both sessions will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at C.I. Gibson High School. The camp is open to all kids ages 13-17 and there is a fee of $25 per week. The fee includes helmets, overalls and other teaching materials. Parental permission must be given for every child participating.
The program was introduced in public schools back in 2013 as a summer camp. Four of the schools with automotive programs still continue to host after school karting clubs.
NACAM-FIA director for the Caribbean region David McLaughlin said that he thinks the camp is a great way for high school kids to get into the automotive field, while learning life skills that can help them prosper off the track.
"Edukarting simply mixes education with karting. What we do is, we form teams for the kids and they have to come up with a name, and a logo for the team. They also have to come up with a budget, because we give them virtual money to spend on things likes tires and gas, all of which that we have supplied," said McLaughlin, who also served on the board for all the editions of the Bahamas Speed Week.
"They also have to produce a sponsorship pitch, and that's not easy to do for kids that have never had that kind of training. A lot start with very little confidence, much less when it came to asking for money. But we have some real life sponsors coming along. All of the elements of the race team basically come together to form a small business."
Sisters Megan and Maya Curry will serve as instructors at the week-long program. Both attended the camp in the past and are currently still active kart racers.
Maya said: "I use to be in auto mechanics and one of my teachers asked me if I wanted to join and I gladly accepted the offer. One of the main things that this program teaches you is how to work as a team and how to relate to others. You learn things not only in mechanics, but also in speaking, finding sponsors, teamwork and various things business related. So this program has been a great help to a lot of kids over the years."
Megan added: I have been into the sport about four years. It taught me a lot of skills that I never had before, and especially for females, it really lets you know that you can go out and do anything that a man can do. The kids participating can expect to learn a lot of things in the span of a week."
For more information on the camp, interested persons are asked to contact McLaughlin by email at email@example.com.