Nassau Guardian Stories

'A day of hope and celebration'

January 16, 2017

The tears flowed on Saturday as 24-year-old Zitalia Fox told the story of learning two years ago she had breast cancer and needed a double mastectomy to save her life.
"I was devastated," said Fox, who was among nearly 200 breast cancer survivors who mounted the stage in a celebratory atmosphere, wearing pink and waving pink roses, at the end of the seventh annual Susan G. Komen Bahamas Race for the Cure.
"It was heartbreaking," she later told The Nassau Guardian. "At first I didn't want to believe it, but I grew to accept it, and I decided to keep on fighting."
Fox's mother and aunt are also breast cancer survivors.
The young woman was diagnosed at stage three. She said she felt a lump underneath her left breast and went to get it checked.
"The doctor didn't even want to perform a mammogram because I was so young," she said. "I felt like that was discrimination because you have people at a young age who have cancer. I actually had to pull the nurse in the room and let her feel the lump. She was shocked."
When the doctor recommended a double mastectomy, Fox said, she cried.
"I was probably OK with one, but to take off the next one...," she said.
The annual race, put on by Sunshine Insurance, is the largest gathering of survivors and supporters of the cause in The Bahamas.
Well over 1,000 people participated in the event which started at Montagu, moved along Shirley Street then eventually over the old Paradise Island Bridge, headed down toward Ocean Club and ended near the foot of the bridge for a grand celebration of life and hope.
Again this year, there was a strong presence of young Bahamian women among the survivors.
Rika Cargill, who was diagnosed in 2012 and whose cancer reoccurred one year ago, is 36.
She was 32 when she learned she had stage three breast cancer.
Cargill said she was prepared for the news. Both her mother and grandmother died from breast cancer.
She took the genetic test that confirmed she was at risk.
"I was just ready to start the proces of surviving, of beating this and showing other people whatever life throws at you, be strong," said Cargill, adding that she lives to encourage others to fight.
Researchers have confirmed after a years-long study that there is something unique about the genetic makeup of Bahamian women that predisposes them to breast cancer at an early age.
But older women are also at risk.
Sheila Rolle-Clarke, a one-year breast cancer survivor, said it was important for her to participate in Saturday's event.
"The first time I got the report, it was shocking," said Rolle-Clarke, 65, a mother of two.
"I thought, 'this is it' and I went into seclusion and just didn't want to be bothered, but positive-speaking people, friends, they have helped me and encouraged me."
She discovered she had breast cancer days after she retired from the Ministry of Education.
Rolle-Clarke says she is inspired to keep fighting.
The race's patron and honorary chair is Willie Moss, a cancer survivor.
"Awareness is the word," Moss told The Nassau Guardian.
"One of the things that we have to deal with in The Bahamas is the cultural taboos that people feel when they hear the word cancer, especially when they hear breast cancer, and a lot of women still feel as if they are not complete if they don't have a breast.
"Life is so much more important than having a breast."
Moss is a 23-year cancer survivor.
"I don't even miss the breast," she said. "I am so happy that I took that decision to get rid of it and when people say, 'I hear you were sick', I say, 'no, I wasn't sick. I had a sick breast but I cut that off'.
"I am still here because I took that decision and I did not allow the insecurities that assail us as women when that part of our body is not there."
Moss said the Komen event empowers women.
"It's phenomenal," she said. "Words can't express the amount of empowerment I feel that goes with this kind of event where women are not afraid to come out and to share their stories."
Sir Franklyn Wilson, who heads Sunshine Insurance, spoke of the feeling of hope and love that surrounds the Komen race and celebration, and he noted it is one of very few events in the country that truly unites Bahamians beyond political and other lines.
Sir Franklyn said he is heartened by the increasing acceptance of Race Weekend, which includes Marathon Bahamas, in the global context.
This month's Delta inflight magazine lists the events among 'what's happening in the world'.
"More and more this thing is developing of 'come for the race and stay for the party'," said Sir Franklyn as he sat watching hundreds of people mingle and enjoy the post-race activities.
"It's just awesome."

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McWeeney attends annual gathering of diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See

January 16, 2017

The Bahamas' non-resident Ambassador to the Holy See Sean McWeeney, QC attended the annual gathering of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican this past week. The high point was the annual "state-of-the world" address delivered on Monday, January 9, 2017 to the ambassadors by Pope Francis, followed by the traditional exchange of greetings between each of the ambassadors and the Pope. It was McWeeney's third time meeting Pope Francis.
In his address, Pope Francis delivered a sobering and wide-ranging survey of the major issues facing the world today. He expressed particular sorrow over the "homicidal madness" of "fundamentalist inspired terrorism" and urged leaders of all religious faiths to reaffirm without equivocation that "one can never kill in God's name".
The Pope, as supreme leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, also called on governments everywhere to combat poverty. "Fundamentalist terrorism," he said, "is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty." This requires, he said, "suitable social policies aimed at combating poverty".
The Pope also renewed his earlier calls for greater compassion and empathy for the plight of migrants, displaced persons and refugees seeking better lives in wealthier countries. At the same time, however, he acknowledged that the integration of such persons has to be achieved in a way that would not cause host societies to lose their sense of security, identity and sociopolitical stability. Moreover, he cautioned migrants to remember their "duty to respect the laws, culture and traditions" of their new homes.
There are now approximately 200 ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, making it the largest diplomatic corps accredited to any independent sovereign jurisdiction in the world, with the exception of the diplomatic corps accredited to the United States.

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Deepak Chopra shares six pillars to wellbeing

January 16, 2017

World renowned physician, noted author and public speaker Dr. Deepak Chopra prescribed a few simple remedies on Saturday to reduce the amount of chronic illnesses that plague the country during Atlantic Medical Insurance's wellness symposium, "A Morning with Deepak Chopra".
Hundreds turned out at the Atlantis Resort to hear from the highly regarded wellness guru, who spoke for an hour and a half on "The Future of Wellbeing".
Named by TIME magazine as one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century, and credited as the poet-prophet of alternative medicine, Chopra believes the causes of almost all diseases are within one's control.
"Ninety-five percent of health and disease prevention in our bodies is in our control, based on proper eating, fitness and sleeping," he said.
"Only about five percent of cancer causing gene mutations are inherited."
He sewed together how moods, emotions, thinking, sleep/wake cycles and social interactions influence the activity of genes and outlined six simple things for members of the audience that they can do right away to improve their physical wellbeing - sleep, movement, stress management, emotions (having love compassion and joy), proper nutrition and earthing (walking barefoot on the sand).
Chopra also led the audience in a mediation exercise.
Atlantic Medical's Executive Vice President and General Manager Lynda Gibson said she was personally surprised at the large turnout, and said it is an indication that Bahamians do want to be educated on wellness, alternative medicine and taking care of their bodies.
"Wellness is very important," Gibson said.
"We tell employers all the time, educated employees who know about looking after themselves, they will see it in the claims experience - lower claims experience, lower rates.
Everyone keeps talking about the cost of healthcare escalating.
"It's mainly because there are so many people who wait until they get sick to learn about what's going on with their bodies.
"We're trying to reduce that by finding ways how we can educate our clients about taking care of their bodies in order to prevent themselves from getting serious illness and that's what Dr. Chopra was here to explain."
Atlantic Medical's Wellness Coordinator Donovan Ingraham said the company has been placing heavy emphasis on wellness over the last three years.
"Our wellness program goes from quarter to quarter, and there are incentives involved with
it, as anyone insured with Atlantic Medical is eligible for our wellness program and the great part about it is that it's continual," he said.
"Most insurance companies have some makeshift wellness programs in place, but our program is continual."
The event with the New York Times best-selling author was free of charge to the public as part of the company's community outreach.
Many of the attendees left the symposium more aware of how they can have healthy, energetic bodies, reflective and alert minds and a likeness of spirit.
"I thought the experience was transformative," Royanne Dean said.
"Those few moments of meditation, I feel made a difference for me already. So I'm very happy that I came and I hope that we have more of these types of speakers to come here and for free."
Kim Miller is a huge fan of Chopra, so much so that she flew from Freeport just to be in attendance for the event.
"I had to come," Miller said.
"There was no other place for me to be other than here with him to receive his message in person. He came at the right time. This is the start of the year. This is the time of the year that most people tend to revamp, reboot and recharge. Thank you to Atlantic Medical for making this moment happen because I came here to invest in me."
Atlantic Medical Insurance is the largest specialist provider of group health insurance and employee benefits in The Bahamas.
It is also a member of the Colonial Group International.
The company hosted a private cocktail reception for its clients with Chopra on Friday evening. Attendees were able to speak one-on-one and take pictures with Chopra and received autographed copies of his book "Quantum Healing".

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Downgrading The Bahamas, pt. 1

January 16, 2017

"Regardless of what our national credit rating is, people will always want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, fuel for their cars and clothes on their backs."
- Robert Kiyosaki

In December 2016, Standard & Poor's Global Ratings revised the outlook on its long-term rating on the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to BB+ (speculative or "junk" grade) from BBB- (investment grade). S&P stated that this rating downgrade was based on its projection that the Bahamian economy will grow at a much slower rate than was previously anticipated only eight months earlier.
This is the first time that The Bahamas received such a rating ("junk status") from an internationally recognized ratings agency. Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider This... Why was The Bahamas downgraded, and what does it mean for the country and its citizens?
In part one of the series, we will examine the major ratings agencies, how sovereign ratings are calculated, what Standard & Poor's said and what the downgrade means for The Bahamas.

The ratings agencies
Ratings agencies are independent institutions that assess the financial strength of companies and governments, particularly their ability to meet their financial obligations. They carefully study the terms and conditions of each specific debt issue and the fiscal and social developments of independent countries and rate them, reflecting the agency's degree of confidence that the borrower will be able to meet its promised payments of interest and principal as scheduled.
There are three major ratings agencies that rate company and governmental (sovereign) debt: Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings. These companies were established in 1860, 1900 and 1913, respectively. These three major ratings agencies collectively earn 95 percent of the revenue in this sector, which accounts for their enormous clout relative to other agencies. Ratings offered by these agencies affect the response of investors in capital markets and influence decisions about investing in countries with poor ratings.

How sovereign ratings are calculated
Ratings agencies use a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to calculate sovereign ratings. In a paper entitled "Determinants and Impact of Sovereign Credit Ratings", Richard Cantor and Frank Packer narrowed the process down to six critical factors that explain more than 90 percent of sovereign credit ratings:

o Per capita income is important because a larger tax base increases a government's ability to repay debt, while it can also serve as a proxy for a country's political stability.
o Strong GDP growth makes a country's existing debt easier to service over time, since that growth typically results in higher tax revenues and an improved fiscal balance.
o High inflation can not only signal problems with a country's finances, but also cause political instability over time.
o A country's external debt can be a problem if it becomes unmanageable.
o Countries with a history of defaulting are perceived to have a higher credit risk.
o More economically developed countries are seen less likely to default.

What did Standard & Poor's say in 2016?
In issuing its report last month, S&P asserted that The Bahamas' downgrade resulted from several key factors:
o The country's weaker economic growth, which is now pegged at 0.3 percent is significantly lower than its 1.2 percent estimate earlier in the year. S&P noted: "We believe that this lower growth trend will challenge the government's ability to meet its fiscal projections, likely resulting in rising debt.
"The erosion of The Bahamas' creditworthiness reflects these growing vulnerabilities within a context of a weak external position with growing levels of external debt, double-digit unemployment, high non-performing loans in the banking system and high household indebtedness".
o The slower pace of fiscal consolidation, which is exacerbated by continued fiscal deficits, increased national debt and infinitesimal improvements in government's excessive expenditures. S&P also noted that government spending is outpacing revenues, despite the introduction of value-added taxes, and increased expenditures that will result from the restoration efforts related to Hurricane Matthew;
o A reduction in the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) will further negatively affect the government's tax revenues and fiscal consolidation plans. GDP will also be adversely impacted by the delay in the opening of Baha Mar, which was anticipated to significantly improve the macroeconomy. S&P noted: "We believe that it will take time before the resort is able to operate at full capacity."
o Notwithstanding S&P's downgrade, the rating agency decided to place
a "stable" outlook on The Bahamas and its credit rating, essentially implying that, barring major negative shocks to the economy, no further downgrades are likely over the next two years.
o It should also be noted that Moody's, the other leading rating agency, is keeping The Bahamas at "investment grade", suggesting a more relaxed perspective on Baha Mar and the Christie administration's fiscal consolidation efforts.

What does this mean for The Bahamas?
S&P's downgrade is potentially highly damaging for the nation and its economy because it signals to the international capital markets that the creditworthiness of The Bahamas is slipping into dangerous territory. There are two immediate possible consequences of the downgrade.
First, a ratings downgrade will affect the government's ability to borrow in the international financial markets and the cost of such borrowings will be higher than it presently is. This could seriously impair the government's ability to achieve its legislative and social agendas, because the government will likely have to pay more for current and future debt issues, raising its debt servicing or interest costs, which could divert money from essential public and social services. We should remember that the government has very little discretionary income available to implement its agenda.
In order to defray the essential costs of governance, in light of these developments, the government will likely incur even greater deficits, which could result in even higher levels of borrowing at a higher cost.
Secondly, a ratings downgrade could severely impact foreign direct investment in The Bahamas. Foreign investors often refer to sovereign debt ratings before making investments in a country because it provides a barometer of the stability of their investment. In addition, foreign companies that operate in The Bahamas could face higher interest on their debt if the lenders of those companies perceive that there is greater risk of such companies' capacity to repay their debts to their foreign lenders. Furthermore, if The Bahamas has a favorable sovereign rating, investors will be more inclined to invest. Unfortunately, if that rating is not favorable, investors may go elsewhere. Because of our historical dependence on direct foreign investment to fuel our economy, the downgrade could stifle prospective investments here.

Conclusion
The challenge before us is how the government will address the systemic weaknesses that plague us, and the proactive measures that will be implemented to ameliorate these systemic weaknesses that contributed to the downgrade.
In part two of this series we will address the government's response to the S&P downgrade and what proactive measures can be taken to reverse the factors that got us to this point.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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Concern for The Bahamas

January 16, 2017

Dear Editor,
Am I the only person who is deathly afraid?
I am concerned about the direction in which this country seems almost irreversibly to be headed. The latest Standard and Poor's report and consequent downgrade, the fourth downgrade in four years, despite all of the flowery language of the government in its own defense, simply means that we have been making too little and spending too much for too many years and it is all catching up with us.
Our problems are fundamental and point to our own inherent weaknesses as a people. We don't work hard enough; we don't create wealth; we don't save, and we spend too much.
We have little to no discipline or accountability in all our institutions - be they government, social, economic or religious. If we were children, the assessment would be that we need discipline, parents who don't let us have our way but who lead by example and tough love.
Our governments, unfortunately, have been a reflection of ourselves, lacking any real vision or courage and looking only to their survival and the next election. Therefore, they pander to our irrational and excessive desires in their quest to secure our approval of them for the next election. We have shown that we are not difficult to please, requiring only that they provide us hams and turkeys, give us government jobs and party celebrations when things really get tough. After all, is there anything a little food and rum, or a government contract, can't fix?
There seems to be a lack of courage, conviction or perhaps even desire on the part of our leaders to do what is right if there is any risk of it being unpopular. This is evident from the referenda which were brought to the people. In each case, there was no need to seek a referendum on any of the issues. The government and its leaders knew what should be done and sought to pass responsibility onto the people. Although our parliamentary system is modeled after the Westminster system in the United Kingdom, our prime minister, unlike David Cameron (who resigned after Brexit, a failed referendum/opinion poll similar to our gaming referendum), lacked the courage, conviction or perhaps the ability to do what was right and resign after two "failed" referenda.
This tendency to pass the buck and failure to lead is evident in the recent efforts for a National Development Plan. While the idea is laudable and it is good that it is being pursued, I believe that it is being used by the government to mask and excuse inaction. All of our leaders are aware of many of the things that need to be done and that discipline must be enforced, but are afraid to do the necessary for fear of losing popularity.
What is wrong?

Education
Our educational system is failing. Somehow we have come to accept grades of D or less as the norm. D is now a passing grade! Every year the educational systems churns out a new batch of functionally illiterate children who have only unrealistic hopes to hold on to. We claim that the answer to this is to move The College of The Bahamas to university status. Whilst this is admirable, our children in public primary and high schools do not have books, sufficiently compensated and motivated qualified teachers, a safe environment for learning and oftentimes lack electricity or water. When they go to their homes, the situation does not get any better. The policy of social promotion ensures that they will pass through the system whether they learn anything or not. What good is The University of The Bahamas to them?

Crime
Without a doubt, many of our young people are growing without a moral compass, an appreciation of right and wrong or a respect for human life. There is also a sense of hopelessness. For the first time in our history many children do not believe that their lives will be as prosperous as that of their parents'. The reality is that they will make less and own less. For some, the idea of owning their own homes is an implausible dream. We are now fearful of being on the streets at night and often alone in our own homes. The people committing these crimes are our own. They are us. How have we lost them?

Economy
Our almost complete reliance on banking and tourism has become a noose around our neck. Over the years we have taken too much for granted. Given the head start and advantages we have had in both areas, it pains me to see that we have fallen in comparison to many of our counterparts.
We have been unable to adapt to the times and to remold ourselves to meet the demands of an ever-changing market. When I completed university in the 70s, it was rare to find that students studying abroad did not want to come home. Often the only reasons they failed to return was because of marriage to a foreigner or pursuing a career for which there was little or no opportunity in The Bahamas. Now our young ones have no desire to return home if they can find any employment at all abroad. We often lament what we believe is a loss of nationalism. However, I believe it is more concrete than that. The truth was that back then we believed that the economic opportunities for us in The Bahamas were as good as they were anywhere else. That belief has been shattered.
We still import more than 90 percent of what we consume.
Where we are now is not the singular fault of the PLP or the FNM. They both bear responsibility. This country has been gradually deteriorating for years. Successive governments have sought to shift responsibility for the steady degeneration by blaming the other party or masking it by absorbing the loss, increasing expenditure, becoming employer of last resort and borrowing heavily to staunch the hemorrhaging. The problem is that we now have to pay the piper.
The present government, when in opposition, blamed the increase in crime on the then FNM government and even placed billboards prior to the election prominently in high-traffic areas where the same were viewed by tourists. Now that they are in power, they say that the issue is too big to blame on any one party or government.
We say that we abide by the Westminster system but, in truth, we honor it in the breach. By convention, when things go wrong, or a situation is not corrected, someone has to take responsibility. Taking responsibility does not mean that I am a bad person or a failure; in fact it is the sign of a honorable man. At one time, it went without saying. Remember the PVC pipes fiasco? How can those who minister over education, crime or the economy hold themselves out as successes? Now we believe that everything is a matter of message, how you spin it. I note that the present government says that the problem is only in getting their message out. That the people do not understand what good they do.
We now have politicians who have learned to manipulate a gullible and trusting public. We believe that someone is a good MP, minister, party leader or prime minister simply because the party machinery has said so. Recent events within both the PLP and the FNM illustrate that the party machinery is often more influenced by personal agendas rather than the common good. The belief is that there is no absolute right or wrong, but, because of the electoral system, right is determined by what numbers you can convince. I disagree. Right and wrong are not a matter only of perception or a numbers game. As Henry David Thoreau said: "One man right is a majority of one."
One opposition politician some months ago made the comment that we are worse off now than we were in 1967. I waited with bated breath to see the reaction. Surprisingly, notwithstanding his repeating this on at least two other occasions, no one bothered either to refute this or to comment on the effect of this if it is true. I often wonder if he himself understood the full implications of this statement, bearing in mind that his party shares responsibility. It is just an example of how numb we have become. Whether his observation is strictly correct or not will be the subject of healthy debate. However, the point that he was making - i.e., that we are in a sad situation - is not for dispute.
An election approaches shortly and supposedly we have a choice between PLP and FNM each with their leader. For some time I have held the belief that it is a false choice. Neither party shows any real vision or the moral fortitude to do what needs to be done. Neither party's leadership shows the strength or will to take the necessary measures without fear of losing the next election. Neither party's leadership has shown any real interest in getting us out of this morass.
I understand the frustration that drove Branville McCartney to start the DNA (which was the only successful effort to challenge the monopoly of the PLP and FNM by contesting every seat); Gregory Moss to create the UPM; that created The Gatekeepers; that spearheaded Alfred Sears' bold campaign to take over the PLP; that gave way to the We March organization and events; that caused the newly minted Dissident 7 from the FNM; and which caused voter registration to be lower than it has been since the country got the majority vote. It is a recognition that we cannot survive doing business as usual.
We all know that something is drastically wrong. We also know that the present system of successive PLP and FNM administrations is doing precious little to solve our problems. Unfortunately, because of our deterioration and the persons we presently have as our "servants", our standards have sunk so low that we believe that anybody can do it. That anyone can be prime minister, minister, MP or senator, and now "anyone" wants to be.
We ourselves have become unthinking. We let others do our thinking for us and grab on only to headlines without concern for the details or any analysis beneath the surface. One reason for this may be our fear and a feeling of hopelessness; or quite simply, the pervasive laziness that has afflicted us as a people.
This is no time for petty divisions. Quite frankly, political identification means nothing to me. It really is all meaningless when you look at the obstacles and risks we now face. The truth is that there is little difference between the FNM and the PLP, philosophically or in practice, and we are forced to decide on the lesser of two evils. In the result, we move between the two each time hoping that one will miraculously change and bring us something they never did before. We need to find a way to put our differences and egos behind us, address what really ails us and do what is necessary to extract ourselves from the mire in which we are sinking.
We need a government which will attract our best and our brightest. A government not afraid of intelligence and competence, but who will instead encourage these qualities; a government with sufficient courage and conviction that is prepared to do what is right, even if "right" is not popular; one without ego and prepared to admit when it is wrong and to accept responsibility. We need a government which can encourage and inspire our most capable leaders both in the public and the private sectors and who will in turn not cater to petty jealousies and allow our greatest minds to express themselves and serve.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. We need a "unity" government in which all sectors of the population can be represented. We need persons to serve not because of some claim to entitlement, but because they have something to offer us, who are not afraid to admit when they cannot do the job and are willing and able to surrender their positions, should this be the case. We have too many people now in government who feel forced to compromise on principle because they cannot afford to lose their positions. I am not saying only rich people should serve, but I do believe that no one should run who cannot afford to walk away on principle. Our earlier history abounds with people who, though not rich, took a principled stand even to their financial detriment. Carlton Francis is perhaps the foremost example of this.
We do have people in this country who are capable of this. This is where I challenge us to see beyond our limitations. For years, we have heralded majority rule, which really we interpreted as black government. In previous years, although black people were the majority, a minority white population through various devices controlled the vote in The Bahamas. The crucial feature of majority rule is one man one vote, and the determination of the government and institutions of the country by a majority of the citizens (comprised of white and black people). Contrary to what many of our present leaders would assert, it does not necessarily mean an all-black government, nor even does it mean a majority black government. The emphasis is that it is a government freely chosen by we, the people. We have this "bogeyman" our leaders have maintained through the years called "White Bay Street" meant to symbolize our oppressors. This was necessary in 1967. Is this still necessary, or can we now see ourselves as Bahamians who are black, white and in between? Can we see that the problems we encounter today are of our own making? That our "oppressors" today look just like us? Or perhaps the dire straits in which we find ourselves necessitate that we stop catering to petty jealousies?
If you were to ask most of the intelligent and educated people in this country whether the best person to lead such a government was Brent Symonette the response would be fairly consistent. They would acknowledge that yes, he, a former deputy prime minister, is probably one of the savviest persons we have with the requisite experience in politics, government, business and law. He is intelligent and possesses keen judgment and intellect and a sense of compassion. He is financially independent and therefore less likely to be tempted by opportunities for personal gain in a leadership capacity. He has shown that he can and will walk away where principle and convention so dictate. He is probably best able to command the respect of the diverse talents (both black and white) this country has and desperately needs to come to the fore.
Yet, these same educated and intelligent people will tell you, despite our supposed enlightenment and equality, he is white and the Bahamian people will never accept a white man especially one whose father led the old UBP regime. How horribly ironic that we eschew a competent, and arguably the best, candidate this country has to lead it because of his color. Is it 2017 or 1967? Was the Quiet Revolution for naught? Can we finally be true to our motto "Forward, Upward, Onward Together"?

- Luther H. McDonald

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A line no Bahamian believes

January 16, 2017

Lynden Pindling became premier of The Bahamas in 1967. He remained our first minister until 1992. That year, after being in power for 25 years, he was defeated by Hubert Ingraham and the Free National Movement (FNM). Pindling ran again in 1997 and was defeated again. He died in 2000.
Hubert Ingraham was the FNM leader in 2002, though Tommy Turnquest was leader-elect. The FNM lost that election. Ingraham came back and won in 2007 as FNM leader. He lost the 2012 election, at which point he retired. Ingraham and his supporters gave serious consideration to a leadership bid at the FNM convention last year. The decision was made at the last minute to pull back. Despite all his faults, Dr. Hubert Minnis had a majority of the FNM's voting delegates. If he did not, Ingraham likely would have returned.
Christie won in 2002; lost in 2007; and won again in 2012. He is going into his fourth election as leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). He is 73 and has been in frontline politics for 40-plus years. Because of his age, long service and poor performance as prime minister, many wonder when Christie will leave politics and retire. We have been consistent. We do not think he ever will voluntarily. Christie will fight to remain prime minister and leader of the PLP for as long as he lives. What he said on Majority Rule Day was laughable.
"As one generation goes out, a new generation comes in," Christie said.
"(Former Prime Minister) Hubert Ingraham, I thank you for all you've been able to do for the cause of this country.
"To those of you who aspire, we recognize that just as Sir Lynden Pindling passed the baton to Hubert Ingraham and then it was eventually passed to myself, the baton will be passed.
"The only thing I can tell you is, at the right time."
No baton was passed. Sir Lynden clung to power and had to be defeated twice. Cancer took his life a few years later.
Ingraham was defeated in 2012 and still considered a comeback last year. Minnis holding a solid majority of voting FNMs prevented that.
What has been established in our young democracy is a culture where leaders only leave when they are defeated in general elections. No one yet has walked away while in power. Christie will not walk away.
Be it at this election or the next, the Bahamian people will have to send him home for good. Then, the PLP will have to forcefully remove him from the post of party leader. No levelheaded Bahamian thinks Christie will pass any baton to anyone at any time. Christie needs to stop saying nonsensical things in public. The Bahamian people know he will never give up power.
Your end, prime minister, will come at their hands. It will be a painful loss. They will overwhelmingly reject you at the polls. Then those who are around you because you have power will abandon you, bowing before the new leader in search of favors and things.
So, we shall see when it is that the Bahamian people have had enough. We hope it is sooner rather than later.

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Schmit, Lo win Marathon Bahamas titles

January 16, 2017

Thousands of runners from around the world gathered this past weekend to compete in the Sunshine Insurance Race Weekend, which was highlighted by the eighth annual Marathon Bahamas yesterday.
According to Sunshine Insurance Vice President of Operation Shelly Wilson, one of the key organizers, this year's marathon stacked up well against those of years past, in terms of attendance, with a large number of participants coming from overseas.
"About 30 percent of the participants this year were tourists," she said. "Participation in the event has ranged to about 1,000 participants or just over that, and we may have met or surpassed that number again."
The marathon started and ended at Junkanoo Beach (west of downtown Nassau). It went east through downtown Nassau over the Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge, returning over the eastern Paradise Island Bridge. The route continued east to Montagu Beach with a westward turn onto Shirley Street all the way to Cumberland Street north. At Bay Street, the course continued to the west, hugging the northern shores of Cable Beach, Delaporte and West Bay Street. The turnaround was about a quarter of a mile west of Compass Point, and then the runners returned east all the way to the eastern entrance of Arawak Cay for an oceanfront finish.
Leigh Schmit and Chen Lo crossed the finish line yesterday as the top male and female finishers respectively in the 26.2-mile race.
Schmit, 44, who's from North Hampton, New Hampshire, crossed the finish line in 2:52:21, and Lo, 33, who resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, finished in 3:17:57.6.
Florida native Johnathan Volpi was the top male finisher in the half marathon for the fourth straight year with a time of 1:14:43.9; and in women's action, Florencia Morales, of Argentina, won the half marathon in 1:29:44.7.
St. Anne's high school emerged as the top finisher in the student run, followed by Westminster College and St. Augustine's College (SAC).
The team of Omavi Collison, Phillip Armbrister, Vincent Gardiner and Reagan Cartwright crossed the line in 3:09:40 for the St. Anne's Blue Waves.
In the adult relay action, the Bald Eagles won the male division in 3:09:26; and the GBPA Pacers took the female division in 4:13.28.
The other half of race weekend, the Susan G. Komen 5k (kilometer) Race for the Cure, was staged on Saturday. Over 1,000 runners and walkers took part in that race, which started at Montagu Beach and finished at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.
All of the proceeds collected from the race will remain in The Bahamas to fund breast cancer research and women's health programs.
The Bahamas' Ministry of Tourism served as a diamond sponsor of the event; Atlantis, FOCOL and BTC served as platinum sponsors.

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Water polo program preparing for international competition

January 16, 2017

Although the program is still in its infant stages, The Bahamas' junior water polo program is taking the necessary steps to ensure that national squads have good showings at the international events they're set to compete in this year.
While putting on a good show at home at the 2017 CARIFTA Water Polo Championships in April remains their main focus, the junior national team is also looking to have a strong performance at the 15th Annual South Florida International Tournament, which is set for February 17-19, in Coral Springs, Florida, USA. The CARIFTA championships will be held at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Aquatics Complex, April 7-9.
According to the team's head coach, Chris Illing, they may be a bit inexperienced, but they're motivated and very coachable.
"We plan to use this tournament as preparation for CARIFTA," said Illing at a team practice over the weekend. "It's a big tournament where some of our Caribbean opponents will be playing. That will allow us to make our first comparisons. The boys are coming along fine, but it's always tough when you are the only team in the country (in that age group). However, our numbers are growing. The more players we get, the more competition they'll have, which will allow them to be even sharper when it's time to go up against competition from around the world."
Bahamas Swimming Federation (BSF) President Algernon Cargill, in a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, said that he pushed to get the water polo championships in New Providence because he believes the program has a lot to offer, and can create another avenue for youngsters to further their education.
"The federation has truly been supportive of what we have been doing so far," said Illing. "We will try to make them proud and bring home at least one gold medal this year. Last year we scored three silvers, so there is still room for improvement."
The 30-member team that represented The Bahamas at the 2016 CARIFTA Water Polo Championships finished second in Trinidad and Tobago. The Bahamas competed against Barbados, Bonaire, Curacao and the host country Trinidad and Tobago in the under-14, under-16 and under-19 categories. Last June, The Bahamas' under-12 and under-14 water polo teams won the Florida Sunshine State Games titles. The under-14 team won gold out of a field of 11 teams. They opened their campaign with convincing 11-0 and 10-5 wins over teams from Boca Raton, Florida, and South Florida. This was followed by a 5-0 victory over a team from Orlando and a 17-5 win over the well-established MBI club. The under-12 co-ed team was impressive in winning its age division.

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Evans, Texas score historic win over Georgia

January 16, 2017

University of Texas sophomore swimmer, Bahamian Joanna Evans, helped propel the Texas Longhorns to a historic win over longtime powerhouse Georgia, in swimming, on Saturday.
With assistance from a pair of gold medals from Evans, the Longhorns snapped Georgia's 103-meet home winning streak. They dealt the defending National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Champions their first home loss since 1995, winning the dual match-up easily, 171-124.
"What a big day for Texas," said Longhorns' Head Coach Carol Capitani, who served as an assistant coach for Georgia for quite some time. "This is a very special team, and I couldn't be more proud of this group of young women. Our girls have fought all year, and today was no exception. It is an emotional day for them and for me. I spent a long time at Georgia, and it has shaped the way I think and coach. I am very grateful for the people who have been a part of this journey. This team has some big goals, and this win is another step toward where we want to go."
Evans, a Rio de Janeiro Olympian for The Bahamas, won the 1,000-yard freestyle in 9:46.40. Stephanie Peters, of Georgia, touched the wall second in 9:49.88, and her teammate Rachel Zilinsk was third in 9:59.12.
Evans followed up that strong performance with a win in the 500-yard free in 4:45.85. Peters finished second once again, this time in 4:47.96, and her teammate Meg Finnon touched the wall third in 4:52.66. Evans also finished fifth in the women's 200-yard freestyle in 1:49.16.
The Longhorns jumped out to an early lead with a win in the women's 200-yard medley relay. That team was made up of Tasija Karosas, Madisyn Cox, Remedy Rule and All American junior Rebecca Millard.
Cox followed the relay performance with a pair of individual wins in the 200-yard free and 200-yard breast. She captured the 200-yard free in 1:45.28 and took the 200-yard breast in 2:09.56.
Texas returns to action on January 27 when it hosts Arizona for a two-day dual meet at home.
Sitting with a 9-1 win/loss record on the season, the Longhorns swimming and diving team is currently ranked as the fifth best team in the nation. However, after the win over Georgia, their ranking could rise before their next meet.

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Bahamians college athletes shine at indoor meets

January 15, 2017

A number of Bahamian athletes saw action this past weekend, as the indoor season continued collegiately, and the T-Bird Flyers Track and Field Classic was held locally.
At the Illini Classic in Champaign, Illinois, redshirt junior Pedrya Seymour picked up right where she left off. The fast rising star clocked 8.20 seconds to take the women's 60 meters (m) hurdles. She ran a blazing 8.13 seconds in the heats.
It was a 1-3 Illinois sweep as sophomore Jayla Stewart finished second in 8.52 seconds, and junior Kortni Smyers-Jones was third in 8.60 seconds.
Bahamian Devynne Charlton led a 1-3 sweep for Purdue at a dual meet against Indiana, on the Indiana Hoosiers stomping ground, Gladstein Fieldhouse, in Bloomington.
Charlton, a junior, won the women's 60m hurdles in 8.39 seconds. Senior Savannah Roberson was second in 8.64 seconds, and senior Shantyra Delaney was third in 8.68 seconds.
Carmiesha Cox took charge in the women's 60m, holding off her teammates Sekayi Bracey and Charlton. Cox, a junior, won in 7.52 seconds. Freshman Bracey held off Charlton for second in a photo finish. Both athletes were timed in 7.56 seconds.
The men's 400m title went to Bahamian Kinard Rolle. Rolle, a sophomore, won comfortably in 47.63 seconds for Purdue. Shawndail McLaren, also a sophomore at Purdue, was second in 48.45 seconds and Indiana's Markevious Roach, a sophomore, finished third in 49.11 seconds.
The other Bahamian in action at the meet, sprinter Keanu Pennerman, a sophomore at Purdue, had to settle for second and third in the men's 60m and 200m respectively. His teammate, sophomore Malcolm Dotson, took the 60m title in 6.79 seconds. Pennerman was second in 6.95 seconds, and Purdue's Joshua Ebikwo, a junior, completed the 1-3 sweep for the Purdue Boilermakers. He finished in 7.03 seconds.
In the 200m, Dotson again prevailed, winning in 21.81 seconds. Treyton Harris, a sophomore at Indiana, finished second in 22.07 seconds, and Pennerman settled for third in 22.16 seconds.
Over at the Sooner Open at the Mosier Indoor Track in Norman, Oklahoma, Bahamian Laquan Nairn picked up a pair of second place finishes.
South Plains College freshman Nairn had a best leap of 7.43m (24' 4-1/2") to finish second in the men's long jump. Fabian Edoki, a sophomore at South Plains, won with a leap of 7.61m (24' 11-3/4"), Nairn was second, and Derrick Monroe, another sophomore at South Plains, was third with a best leap of 7.33m (24' 0-1/2").
In the men's triple jump, Nairn had a best leap of 15.38m (50' 5-1/2") to finish second. Oklahoma senior Hayden McClain won with a jump of 16.38m (53' 9"), Nairn was second, and Edoki settled for third this time, with a leap of 15.20m (49' 10-1/2").
At the Aggie Team Invitational at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, Texas Southern freshman Alexis Gray picked up two top-five results. She was third in the women's 200m in 24.81, and fifth in the 60m in 7.65.
Texas A&M's senior Kaina Martinez won the 200m in 24.58 seconds, Texas Southern's senior Breana Dockery was second in 24.60 seconds, and Gray finished third. Texas A&M's sophomore Deana Richardson and Lamar's sophomore Chanissey Fowler were both timed in 7.52 seconds in the women's 60m. Richardson emerged victorious in a photo finish. Martinez was third in 7.58 seconds, Texas A&M's senior Plaserae Johnson was fourth in 7.60 seconds, and Gray settled for fifth. Gray ran the second leg of a third-place outing for Texas Southern's women's 4x400m team. They finished in 3:54.64. Sam Houston St. won in 3:52.30, and Prairie View finished second in 3:53.41.

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Bahamas Mortgage Corp. has 42 delinquency rate

January 15, 2017

Over the past six years, the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation's (BMC) arrears have increased three to five percent, and statistics provided to Guardian Business reveal that the government-owned entity to date has a 42 percent delinquency rate.
Information given to Guardian Business by a confidential source states that BMC's private loan portfolio has seen a significant increase, and now represents 45 percent of its total loan portfolio. The larger portion is made up of government applications.
The source also notes that, overall, BMC is doing well in terms of its financial position, but the corporation does have its challenges, including 38 percent of its total loan portfolio being non-performing.
It was revealed by this insider that BMC has repossessed fewer than 50 properties over the last five years, representing less than one percent of its total loan portfolio.
The source explained that if more foreclosures were performed, the number of non-performing loans would decrease.
It was admitted, though, that although the government is looking for avenues of relief, BMC has not exercised its full capacity to foreclose at this time. And while the Progressive Liberal Party has promised mortgage relief since it ascended to government, it has yet to find the right formula to do so.
On the other hand, potential borrowers are more "inclined" to borrow from BMC, given its five percent equity down payment, which is relatively lower than other lending institutions. The source said BMC does not have a problem attracting customers, but its "biggest problem" is the corporation's ability to raise funding.
BMC would need more funding to do more lending.
"The inventory from government hasn't been steady. We don't have the inventory/funding to do a mass amount of lending," said the source.
"Our lending is going to be somewhat restricted, but not in the sense of the lending policy but just on the strength of making sure we have the financing to."
The government's "inventory" is the number of home construction projects done in the past four years.
Back in 2012, the Ministry of Housing announced its plans to kick-start $20 million worth of new home construction the following year.
At the time, Minister of Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett referenced the weak financial state of BMC - due to a high default rate - and said any new government home construction projects must be done prudently.
Dorsett further noted that his ministry plans to expand subdivisions in New Providence, in the areas of Aastra Estates, Sunset Close, Pride Estates and Fire Trail Road.
The source admitted that BMC does have "challenges" with its collection efforts.
This led the corporation to increase its private lending amid a challenged economy.

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J.S. Johnson estimates 60 million in Hurricane Matthew claims

January 15, 2017

J.S. Johnson paid out 75 percent of its claims during the three months following the passage of Hurricane Matthew across The Bahamas, the company's senior manager, Charles Johnson, said recently.
Speaking to the media at a press conference for the Royal Fidelity Bahamas Economic Outlook, Johnson said the company would have shelled out close to $60 million in hurricane claims when all of its cases have been completed. The total throughout the entire industry is thought to be around $500 million.
"Claims processing and settlement was progressing fairly well at the end of the year," he said.
"While we are trying to close our claim reporting, we are still open to accept claims."
The insurance company has recently opened claims for second home owners, many of whom only discovered damage to their residences when they came down for their annual winter holidays.
One of the main concerns of Bahamians following the passage of Hurricane Matthew was the worry of having to present a deductible in order to complete an insurance claim. However, Johnson said insurance customers typically do not know that the deductible is simply adjusted from the total of the claim. This, he said, keeps insurance premiums affordable.
"The deductible always presents a challenge for our clients, but of course we explain to them that catastrophe loss carries a two-percent deductible, and that is two percent of the insured value," he said.
"If we had to pay the first dollar value on a hurricane claim, the cost of your insurance would be much higher. By taking a deductible, we can charge a slightly better price for the insurance on an ongoing basis."
He added that his company has handled between 2,000 and 3,000 claims, which required it to bring in foreign adjusters to investigate the claims. He said this is a normal practice in the industry.
According to Johnson, Hurricane Matthew was one of the largest hurricanes, in terms of losses, that the insurance industry has seen in many years in The Bahamas, but said the "industry was well-prepared to deal with and respond to the losses".
He does not foresee a rise in insurance premiums due to the high payouts, though he did say: "Rates are driven by reinsurance, and when they are in a position to assess their losses, it will be determined if there are any rate increases."

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Anderson: Technology will continue to replace retail banking jobs

January 15, 2017

President of Royal Fidelity Merchant Bank & Trust Ltd. Michael Anderson said the number of jobs replaced by technology in the retail banking sector is likely to increase over the next few years.
Anderson told Guardian Business that the proliferation of technology-driven services will result in banks needing fewer people, and it could also lead to a reduction in the number of branches per bank.
Anderson said he thinks since the 2008 financial crisis, there has been a 20 percent reduction in staff and the number of branches for banks across the Caribbean.
While speaking on the sidelines of a press conference on Friday, Anderson pointed out that, "Technology locally changes the game, but also the ability to provide services from an outside market."
Since the recession, banks in The Bahamas performed a number of downsizing exercises and have outsourced many of their services.
Anderson said there is a "false perception" that jobs are not available because of immigration or work permit-related issues.
He explained that, "Jobs are leaking into other places, and we are not getting jobs locally because skills are not here locally, and we have to outsource them someplace else and the local people are not getting those jobs."
The banking executive asserted the need to continue improving skills within the local workforce in order to foster a competitive environment.
He also stressed that education is important.
"Whether in banking or any business-related area, you have to be skilled in that area," he said.

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New car sales decline impacting insurance firms

January 15, 2017

New car sales have been declining year-on-year for the past eight years, according to J.S. Johnson Senior Manager Charles Johnson, who said insurance companies have been taking a hit on the comprehensive premiums side.
Johnson, speaking to the media on Friday at a press conference for the Royal Fidelity Bahamas Economic Outlook, said Bahamians have been importing more and more used cars, and more frequently from Japan. Those cars are typically found to not be eligible for comprehensive insurance.
"It has adversely affected our premium growth on the comprehensive side of things," he said.
"Of course, correspondently, we have seen an increase in the importation of the second-hand car - Japanese model cars."
Johnson lamented that underwriters are therefore doing the same amount of work for lower premiums.
New car sales
professionals in The Bahamas have continually complained about the slowdown in new model vehicle sales and government taxes that may have had an adverse effect on the industry.
Johnson said while the second-hand vehicles may be many, they do not demand the kinds of premiums that vehicles that qualify for comprehensive insurance do.
"We have had some concerns with the Japanese model vehicles because of the availability of parts, but of course they have been getting very good at it and I think with technology you can get a part here very quickly," said Johnson.
While a worrisome trend for insurance providers' bottom line, there is nothing much the insurance companies can do about the decline in comprehensive-worthy vehicles.

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Royal Fidelity Bahamas Economic Outlook to feature five internationally renowned speakers

January 15, 2017

Now in its third year, the Royal Fidelity Bahamas Economic Outlook continues to grow year-on-year and bring insightful speakers and topics to Bahamian professionals.
The event will take place at the Atlantis resort on January 31 and will feature five internationally renowned guest speakers. The conference's theme for 2017 is "Economic stagnation: Finding a path to growth".
President of Royal Fidelity Michael Anderson said the global and Bahamian economies have been in the "doldrums" for the past several years, and he considers the recent Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States change agents for the global economy, though he did not say whether good or bad.
"If you're interested in finding out about those issues, please come to the conference," said Anderson.
This year the conference has been accredited by the Continuing Professional
Development (CPD) Group; individuals can acquire CPD hours while at the forum.
Aliv, which is one of the conference's sponsors, will bring multimedia capabilities to the event, including live streaming of the conference.
"This underscores Aliv's focus to strengthen relationships in the business community and throughout the territory and develop long-term, sustainable partnerships," said Aliv Chief Partner Alan Bates.
Some of the topics for the Tuesday conference are "What's going on in the economy and why economic growth is so easy to achieve", "Brexit: Risks and opportunities for the Caribbean", and "U.S. China affairs and the local impact of China's economic slowdown".
"The global economy has taken blow after blow in recent years," said Anderson in a Royal Fidelity Press release.
"In the U.S. for example, sales demand continues to decelerate, causing experts to fear a recession. Locally, The Bahamas has experienced an economic downgrade, and has been impacted negatively by political instability and the devastation of natural disasters like Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew.
"Royal Fidelity seeks to explore the impact economic stagnancy can have on our workforce, public policy and overall growth."

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'New political vehicle coming'

January 13, 2017

Official Opposition Leader Loretta Butler-Turner said she and the six other Free National Movement (FNM) members who ousted FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis as opposition leader have been in talks with other opposition forces besides the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) concerning a political power move before the next general election.
Following Butler-Turner's appointment of DNA Leader Branville McCartney as leader of opposition business in the Senate, Butler-Turner announced that she was in talks with the DNA concerning a bid to oust the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
The DNA denied it was in any in-depth talks with Butler-Turner.
However, Butler-Turner said this week she is in talks with other parties who agree with the message she has.
"I can say that Pastor Jeremiah Duncombe and his Gatekeepers group have made it very clear to me that the plan that I have articulated to him outside of the status quo is certainly what he ascribes to moving forward so I think we are going to have the endorsement of Pastor Jeremiah and other individuals who would fall within the purview in The Gatekeepers," Butler-Turner told The Nassau Guardian on Thursday.
"Certainly, unions and labor are very, very important so we rule out nobody.
"The reason why there was a lot of emphasis and there continues to be a lot of emphasis on the DNA is simply this, they are a political organization and they have been in existence since the last election and we do believe it was important to make overtures with them first and foremost because of the outcome of the last general election and I think any right-thinking Bahamian wants to know we can mitigate against those split votes to cause the Progressive Liberal Party to be returned to government.
"While there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of dynamic movement to what we are trying to accomplish, I assure you many of us are burning many long hours trying to reach an agreement that we can all live with, comprehend and effectively carry out to become the government of the country."
Last year, Butler-Turner said she has something phenomenal planned that is "different from the status quo" and will change politics in the country.
Although she said she is still not ready to share what she has planned, she insists there has been progress in her plan for change.
"We seem to be getting closer and closer to the election cycle," said Butler-Turner.
"We have made movement.
"We are reaching more common ground and I believe at the end of the day, what we will present to the Bahamian people will certainly be, and I've said this before but I remain steadfast to what I said, and that is to present a different forum of politics in The Bahamas and focus.
"I'm sure you know that there are discussions with other opposition forces and I'm very pleased with the direction of those discussions.
"We will reach the mid-point of January this weekend and I was hoping that we could have announced earlier but all I can is that we are very close and when we do announce, we want to be very clear so that there is no ambiguity in the way the people see what we are presenting and so we are looking at all the i's and t's and all of the components that is going to make this new political vehicle viable, appealing and serving the interests of the Bahamian people first as opposed to the interests of individuals .
"So stay tuned, I know I've said that before. But have just a little bit more patience.
"We're getting there soon."

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'PLP running on failed record'

January 13, 2017

Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Sidney Collie has called out the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) for running "on their failed policies".
Collie challenged the Christie administration to "run on its record" in the next general election.
"Their four and a half years have been an unmitigated disaster for the Bahamian people," Collie said in a press statement yesterday.
"Junk bond status; endemic unemployment; rising crime, which has led other countries to issue travel warnings; scandals; secret deals and continued mismanagement and failures.
"The embattled prime minster and his PLP government may celebrate this as 'outstanding', but the Bahamian people feel otherwise and have been turned off by this government that works to serve itself instead of Bahamians.
"We are also glad that Minister [of Labour] Shane Gibson revealed the PLP's intentions to present its platform at their upcoming contested convention, finally answering questions on the onerous value-added tax (VAT), National Health Insurance (NHI) and their Baha Mar debacle.
"Maybe the Bahamian people will finally get answers to critical questions that the PLP have been ignoring for years.
"Like, where has the VAT money gone? Why do they continuously delay the implementation of NHI? What are they hiding in their secret Baha Mar deal with their Chinese allies? Why have they not fixed our failing school system? How do they answer for the continuously high murder and crime rates for the past four consecutive years?"
Collie said Bahamians deserve answers to these questions, and he and his party hope that the PLP will use this opportunity to finally deliver answers without any more of that party's empty rhetoric and broken promises.
"Rest assured, the FNM will continue to stand with the people, holding the PLP's feet to the fire until Bahamians get satisfactory answers, not more campaign spin," he said.
"With our 'Change Team', the FNM will finally return the government to the people in just a few short months, making it 'the people's time'."

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Cable fault believed to be cause of blackout

January 13, 2017

Officials at Bahamas Power and Light Company (BPL) are still investigating the cause of a system shutdown that led to an island-wide blackout on New Providence early Friday morning.
In a statement yesterday, BPL Corporate Communications Manager Arnette Ingraham said, "The shutdown, which is still being investigated, appears to have been caused by an underground cable fault.
"The total shutdown occurred after 2 a.m. and BPL crews were able to make initial assessments, begin powering up engines and incrementally restoring areas starting just before 5 a.m. on Friday morning.
"BPL substantially completed restoration before 8 a.m. with a small group of customers restored around 9 a.m. on Friday.
"The company advises that while, initially, this appears to be a cable failure; it will continue its investigation into this early morning outage.
"BPL also advises that it is presently undergoing a major project in New Providence to reinforce its high voltage underground cables."

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Bradley Roberts: Airspace agreement will bring millions

January 13, 2017

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts yesterday congratulated the party for having a successful negotiation of a landmark and historic airspace management agreement which Prime Minster Perry Christie claims will pump millions into the Bahamian economy.
In a statement issued on Thursday night, Roberts said, "It is fitting that such an agreement would be concluded so near to Majority Rule celebrations as the implications of this agreement with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strike at the very foundational principle of self-determination, sovereignty and the identity of the national identity of the Bahamian people.
"These are principles the PLP holds near and dear and have fought tirelessly for as we continue to build a more perfect Commonwealth.
"Under the agreement, our national flag carrier, Bahamasair, and scores of Bahamian registered private air charters and carriers would be exempt from fly over fees when taking off from and landing at airports in The Bahamas.
"The economic impact of this is enormous as operating costs would be reduced and airline operators would be well positioned to pass on cost savings to passengers in the form of lower airfares.
"The 10-year transition period allows the Government of The Bahamas to literally create a new industry as it puts the requisite infrastructure and human resources and management systems in place to support the seamless transition to Bahamian management control of Bahamian airspace.
"This agreement is part and parcel of the government's overarching mandate and policy commitment to build and empower our people as we move this country forward together."
At a press conference on Tuesday, Christie announced that Bahamian airlines taking off and landing in The Bahamas will soon be exempt from paying overflight fees to the FAA, and The Bahamas could soon be collecting millions of dollars in overflight fees for the public coffers when it takes over its own airspace.
After the announcement, Christie insisted that his government has done an "outstanding job" this term and deserves to be re-elected.
However, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis believes members of the Christie administration should be "hanging their heads in shame" for their "continued failures".
Minnis said, "After reading today's (Wednesday's) headlines, I am not sure what country the prime minister is living in.
"The prime minister cannot be talking about the same country that you and I know, where crime is still destroying families, where unemployment and underemployment remain abysmally high, where negotiations are done in secret to the benefit of Chinese over Bahamians, and where the red carpet is rolled out for foreigners while Bahamians are wrapped up in the proverbial red tape.
"Is this the same Bahamas to which the prime minister was referring?
"How disconnected from reality can he be to utter such a flippant statement when the reality for so many of us is drastically different?"
Roberts pointed out that the FNM did not have much interest in the idea of Bahamians controlling and managing its own airspace.
He scolded the party for not having a vision.
"I hasten to point out that the Free National Movement scoffed at the idea of Bahamians controlling and managing its own airspace," he said.
"They said there was little to no economic benefit in it and it was not worth their time while in office, so the good work of Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin and her team was shelved under the FNM's harmful and shortsighted stop, review and cancel policy.
"What a shame. It is written that where there is no vision the people perish.
"Special thanks go out to Prime Minister Christie for his focused leadership and vision; his tenacious Minister Hanna-Martin; and the public officials who worked tirelessly to see this deal through to the end.
"The Bahamian people are the ultimate beneficiaries of this agreement. Together we build capacity, empower ourselves and move this country forward."

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Magistrate's courts to get new accounting system

January 13, 2017

Chief Justice Sir Hartman Longley announced that a new accounting system will be implemented in the magistrate's court, which will remove the paper process and alleviate longstanding problems relating to payments.
"The accounting side of the magistrate's court has to date been extremely problematic as many who visit these court can attest," said Sir Hartman as he spoke at the opening of the 2017 legal year earlier this week.
"Payments in and out have been problematic for us and for the general public for years.
"Now thanks to the Ministry of Finance, an updated and new system similar to what now exists in the Department of Social Services is earmarked for magistrate's courts as the accounting system is being revamped to become more customer friendly.
"This is a welcome change and it would make it easier for persons doing business with the magistrate's court to get payments in and out.
"Those who visit the domestic and civil courts can attest to what I speak about."
Sir Hartman's announcement came just minutes after Bahamas Bar Association (BBA) President Elsworth Johnson spoke of numerous issues within the judicial system which he claimed is "not where it should be".
Though Sir Hartman did not give a date for when the system will be implemented, he explained how it would work and how it will benefit Bahamians.
"As the system is envisioned to operate, when an individual makes a payment for either a civil or domestic matter, the accounts department will then enter into the software name, address, date of birth and nature of the action and parties involved," he said.
"Thus removing the paper process and potential delays.
"It will also provide better internal accounting control and reduce possible fraud.
"The ultimate objective is to move away from a check-based system and to a direct deposit where the parties to the actions will have funds paid directly into their bank accounts, thereby avoiding persons having to stand in lines at the court house to collect funds.
"To facilitate all of this, we have crafted forms, which litigants are required to fill out, and forms that the court will have to fill out highlighting its orders.
"This information will be added to the data base and assist in the compliance of the court's order and hopefully provide for more efficient record keeping and controls.
"Again, the task force which helped with the appeals is being reassigned to assist in making this transition so that it will come on stream as quickly as possible with the least degree of interruption."

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