Business

Vendors disappointed by lack of progress on Potter's Cay Dock

July 21, 2017

Potter's Cay Dock vendors are disappointed that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) left office without fulfilling its promise of a new Potter's Cay. And they are similarly dismayed that it seems like the new Free National Movement government will not be able to create the space promised to them by the former administration.
But, some vendors are hopeful that when the new government is ready to improve Potter's Cay, they will finally have a say in how the area that is their livelihood will look.
One vendor, who asked to remain anonymous, said some vendors met with the new Minister in charge of the area under the bridge, Renward Wells, who expressed to them a plan he has for the area.
Guardian Business could not reach Wells up to press time. However, the vendor said Wells apprised them of the condition of the country, explaining why the government might not be able to carry through with dock improvements that were planned by the PLP but never executed.
In January, then Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries V. Alfred Gray told Guardian Business that a new plan and budget for Potter's Cay Dock would go to Cabinet and said work could begin within one month, if all goes well.
However, vendors have been waiting in limbo since then to see what the government will do about their stalls. They are still waiting and could wait a bit longer.
One vendor told Guardian Business yesterday that he has already begun rebuilding his stall and could not wait a moment longer for government to decide what it wants to do.
The vendor, Charlie Brown, said he wants to see the government implement more entertainment on the dock. But first and foremost, he said, the vendors need electricity. Most vendors utilize generators to power their stalls.
Since the passage of Hurricane Matthew some Potter's Cay vendors have already spent the money to rebuild their stalls. They said they could not wait on government to shut down their businesses and rebuild -- they had to carry on with making a living.
When Gray was asked in February what vendors should do, he said they should continue to wait on the government to finalize its plans.
"I would tell them that they should just wait until the government announces its final decision before they invest in anything that might have to be taken down," he said.
"It is scheduled to come to Cabinet shortly for final approval and thereafter we should go to tender, and I'm looking forward to starting construction shortly after that."
The original plans for the upgrade of vendor stalls at Potter's Cay had to be taken back to architects to ensure more affordable design and construction.
But vendors want their own feel on Potter's Cay, one told Guardian Business.
"This isn't the old days," he said. "We want our area to look how we want it to look."

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Fresh off of Baha Mar tour, PM slated to tour Atlantis

July 21, 2017

Only one week after touring Baha Mar, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis is slated to tour Atlantis and is likely to witness its upgrades, improvements and soon-to-come features.
Atlantis has been hard at work in recent months pushing its campaign to highlight Bahamian artists and entrepreneurs. The resort's occupancy rate is around 95 percent at the moment.
The resort recently implemented a bi-monthly art walk at its Marina Village area; several spaces inside its lobby and outside on its pool deck house Bahamian treats and confections.
Guardian Business understands one of those vendors is fresh fruit popsicle company PopStop.
Several authentically Bahamian restaurants are slated to open at Marina Village soon. This paper understands that one of those restaurants is Frankie Gone Bananas as well as a vendor from Potter's Cay Dock.
According to a recent press release by The Cove, the resort's adult pool, Cain, has undergone renovations to accommodate restaurant Sip Sip and another restaurant option. The release revealed that Atlantis undertook the upgrades in hopes of recreating the feel of Sip Sip's barefoot appeal.
"When conceptualizing our new 'Come to Life' vision, with the intention of supporting and bringing out the authentic Bahamian culture, we sought out Chef Julie to instill the spirit of the surrounding Family Islands to our resort in Paradise Island," said Howard C. Karawan, president and managing director of The Cove and Atlantis.

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No signs of improvement on Grand Bahama, says AML CEO

July 21, 2017

CEO of AML Gavin Watchorn said there are "no signs of improvement" regarding the economic state of Grand Bahama, but pointed out that the reopening of the Grand Lucayan strip would help to boost business activity on that island.
Speaking with Guardian Business yesterday, Watchorn said most of AML's businesses in Freeport "are producing positive sales". However, he paints a different picture for businesses in general on that island.
"People have had concerns about business in Freeport for many years," he said.
"There are no signs up there as a businessperson that tells that things are getting better.
"I have been involved in business in Freeport for 15 years now, and it has been forever a situation of it's about to turn and it hasn't. Something needs to happen. There are no signs of improvement."
Watchorn also lauded the expected revival of the Grand Lucayan strip, which remains closed to date since the passage of Hurricane Matthew. The prospective buyer for the property is Canadian real estate development firm Wynn Group.
"When the hotel is opened, every business in Freeport will benefit. Taxi drivers will now have more money, hair braiders and straw vendors are going to have more money and they are going to spend that money," he said.
Watchorn opined that once consumers in The Bahamas have additional purchasing power, it would no longer limit them from buying extra goods or services.
"I am always of the opinion, and I have been for a long time, that our economy is maybe a lot smaller than what we want to believe and a dollar that I pay my staff is spent in ten different stores within a week," he said.
"While everybody needs to eat, if you have $20 in your pocket going into a grocery store, you are limited to what you can get." But with $60 in pocket, he noted that a consumer could purchase more items.

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RBC making changes to fee, service charges

July 21, 2017

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Bahamas will be making changes to its fee and service charges for certain banking services effective August 28, 2017.
The bank pinned the changes as a move to remain competitive in the local banking market.
"We assure that our pricing remains competitive in the local market as we are committed to delivering value and excellent service to our clients," an RBC sign stated.
The Canadian-owned institution also made changes to its fee and service charges just last year in September.
The latest fee schedule was dated May 2017 on the bank's website.
The fee schedule, made effective for August, was posted on the bank's website on Wednesday.
Guardian Business contacted RBC for additional information on the fee changes, but was not successful up to press time.
The move to modify certain fee charges also comes just months after the bank announced its plans to close four branches.
RBC closed its locations at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) in Nassau, Treasure Cay, Bimini and Spanish Wells.
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell previously said the closure of RBC on Bimini and Spanish Wells would have a "devastating" impact on these communities.
The proposed fee schedule notes that there will be a 75 cents fee change for paper bank statements but e-statements are free. This will be implemented on August 18, 2017.
The price for interim/duplicate statements are $5 on the August schedule, but stood at $15 on the May schedule.
In addition, the document shows a $15 decrease for stop payments for local checks and a $10 dollar decrease for foreign checks.
Also, there was a decrease in prices for RBC Rewards Visa Platinum card services for the applicant and co-applicant, marking a decline of $25 and $15 respectively.
For personal banking accounts, changes were apparently not made for day-to-day banking services, meaning that the monthly fee of $12 remains in place. Check and in-branch transactions for RBC customers remain at $2.50.
The schedule also showed that savings account services for daily operations carried a $5 monthly fee and in-branch transactions are $2.50.
The fees mentioned above are not inclusive of value-added tax (VAT).

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Financial literacy project on the cards for Central Bank

July 21, 2017

The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBOB) announced yesterday its plan to execute a program on financial literacy in The Bahamas.
The regulator put out a request for proposals to qualified firms to participate in designing the program. The deadline for submission of proposals is August 15.
"To be considered, firms must demonstrate a clear understanding of The Bahamas' domestic policy circumstances," the regulator stated.
"They must also have an established track record in developing communications on complex subject matter in ways that are clear, accessible and actionable for lay audiences."
CBOB said the targeted outcomes of the project are to make financial services more accessible though "safe, cost effective channels", ensure consumers are better able to conduct affairs in a prudent fashion, and ensure consumers are equipped to act in their best financial interest.
"According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), though more individuals worldwide have access to basic financial products, consumers have shown limited understanding of such products and concepts," the regulator cited.
"They are also challenged when making informed, long-term financial decisions and choosing products that match their needs.
"This undermines financial well-being and inhibits the responsible behavior that supports the longer-term stability of financial systems and economies.
"In addition, ill-informed households make less sound decisions on savings and borrowing, and are less equipped to protect themselves against fraud and financial abuse.
"Policymakers have therefore shifted their focus to financial education programs that improve financial literacy."
The regulator noted that the literacy campaign's audience is intended to be school-aged children, young adults, prospective home buyers, homeowners, pre-retirees and retirees.

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BTC to launch new Bahamian app

July 21, 2017

Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) continues to make meaningful investments in the community. The company is now working along with Bahamian app developer Stephen Brown to create a game just for BTC.
Vice President for Mobile, Alphanique Duncombe said, "We've used this opportunity to team up with local talent in the development of this app. We wanted to create a truly Bahamian experience while showcasing how talented our people can be."
The "BTC Starmaker" app resembles market heavy hitters Snapchat and Instagram, according to app developer Stephen Brown. Brown has been in the information technology arena for the past five years. After starting his craft as a hobby, he opened CSB Tech Emporium where they recently started to offer mobile app development services in 2015. He said, "I took the entrepreneurial route, opened my own company, and presented my ideas to various parties. I met with BTC in 2016, where we began to collaborate on different projects."
The telecommunications firm remains committed to nation building through the investment in youth. Brown has also helped to develop the "BTC Rush" game which is now in BTC stores. He said the BTC Starmaker app will feature Bahamian-themed filters like the police hat, a conch shell and a Junkanoo head piece. Users will also be able to play and lip sync Bahamian music on the app.
Brown added, "I was very elated about the idea of collaborating with BTC. I was happy that they were able to see the value behind my work, and I'm happy to partner with them to create quality products."
The product will be the first of its kind in the Bahamian market, and will be available to both Android and iOS users free of charge. BTC remains committed to providing top notch products and services to keep Bahamians connected one filter at a time.

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ALIV Sponsors 200 Kids for Buddy Hield Summer Basketball Workshop

July 20, 2017

ALIV, The Bahamas’ newest mobile network, has teamed up with organizers of the Buddy Hield Summer Basketball Workshop and will sponsor 200 children to attend the highly anticipated camp free of charge. The camp will be held July 28-29 at the Kendall G.L. Isaacs Gymnasium...

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5G TRIAL IN PROGRESS” BTC Parent-Company Conducts 5G Testing in Antigua

July 20, 2017

BTC’s parent company, C&W Communications announced yesterday that it has completed a groundbreaking pre-5G (fifth generation wireless broadband technology) trial in Antigua. Once installed, Antigua will be the first country in the region with the most advanced pre-5G network...

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NHI should not be a one-size-fits-all model, says Sands

July 20, 2017

The model for National Health Insurance (NHI) should not be a one-size-fits-all model, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday, adding that the debate on what NHI should become has "missed the mark".
Sands compared healthcare to the varying classes on an airplane, suggesting that those with the means to afford the creature comforts of the most expensive kinds of health services (first class) should be on a separate tier than those who may have to choose business class or coach.
"This is the model of healthcare we need to deliver - if you can afford creature comforts, if you can afford amenities, there is no reason you should not get it," he said.
Sands explained the principle of universal health coverage like this: "Ensuring that all people have access to needed promotive, preventative, curative and rehabilitative health services of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that people do not suffer financial hardship and pain for these services, is the
definition of universal health coverage."
He insisted that a healthy population is essential for sustainable development and said data shows an extra year of life expectancy can lead to growth in gross domestic product (GDP).
Sands said given The Bahamas' unique health profile, in which chronic non-communicable disease is a big factor in the morbidity of Bahamians, a "Bahamian solution" to NHI has to be found that will be the most effective system to service the needs of locals. He said Bahamians have for too long used research and data from other countries to make decisions about our own.
"We have not adequately invested in healthcare research and development to answer uniquely Bahamian questions," Sands said. "We have relied on extrapolating data from the first world."
Besides this, the physical plant of the public health care system has not been updated and upgraded in a lot of instances, and Sands said the country has done away with its "retrogressive approach to rating high risk, or older persons, or people with pre-existing conditions".
"We have not dealt effectively with inefficiency, waste and abuse in our public healthcare system," he said.
"We have ignored calls to manage and account for the hospital and public health accounts of most individuals.
"We have not equipped or supplied our facilities with the support services and materials needed in a modern healthcare environment. Our record keeping is outmoded, our information management systems are obsolete, and we have refused to tap legal means of funding to build local capacity.
"We have refused to deal with those people who have at best not provided value to our healthcare system and, at worst, are guilty of extorting limited funds from the national coffers by inadequate productivity or unreasonable charges."
Sands said the private sector will have to partner with the government to produce the new iteration of NHI.

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Aliv wants smart medicine push

July 20, 2017

The country's newest mobile service provider is eying the health services sector by toying with the idea of "smart medicine". Healthcare, Chief Aliv Officer Damian Blackburn joked, is in Aliv's DNA.
Blackburn, speaking at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer's Confederation's "power breakfast" yesterday, said Aliv wants to have healthcare professionals practicing smart medicine, using their smartphones and Aliv's twin LTE networks.
He added that the idea of smart medicine was reawakened in his mind after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis spoke of his goal of expanding telemedicine in the country.
"I did listen intently last week at the global symposium... central to his theme was what his government was looking to do around communication, which was telemedicine," Blackburn said.
"Absolutely we at Aliv stand ready to help the government with its agenda in telemedicine, but we do hope to change the agenda a little, we'd like to move it on to smart medicine... so, medicine from the smartphone.
"Nothing would make me more delighted than to see The Bahamas in five years time using the smartphone to its fullest capabilities from a medical angle. There are a lot of apps being developed right now for smartphone use that really are about preventative medicine, rather than reactive medicine."
Blackburn said his mother, as well as the mother of Aliv's chief financial officer, were both nurses. It was therefore easy for them both to decide that Aliv should help to advance a digital platform that would help nurses and doctors do their jobs.
"Nothing would delight me more than to see this generation of nurses not running around like I used to see my mother doing... reacting like I used to see my mother doing, reacting to medical problems," said Blackburn.
"I hope to see the medical professionals in the future, starting here in The Bahamas, using the full capabilities of smartphones with their patients to monitor and prevent things before they happen."
Blackburn ensured the room at the power breakfast that his company has already built two "next generation LTE" networks that are already primed for telemedicine and smart medicine.
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said The Bahamas has to move forward with technology advances.
"We have got to use the technology available in the world today in order to deliver all of these things to all of these people from Inagua to Abaco," he said.

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D'Aguilar: Not much we can do about cost to enter the country

July 20, 2017

There may be nothing The Bahamas can do about the expensive nature of flights into the country in the near- to medium-term, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D'Aguilar told Guardian Business yesterday. Meanwhile, this country's competitors, whose flight prices are only $8 less in some cases, are seeing their tourism products boom.
A quick check of flight comparison website Kayak.com showed a flight from New York to Kingston, Jamaica at $531, while a flight from New York to Nassau during the same time period was selling for $523 (prices quoted were different airlines). However, the distance disparity between this country and Jamaica is 520 miles. It is quicker and shorter to get to Nassau than to Kingston.
Last year Jamaica saw its tourism numbers grow almost six percent over the previous year. Air arrivals to New Providence last year grew less than one percent over the previous year, according to tourism statistics.
Statistics have shown that The Bahamas' tourism product has not grown in 20 years and has been "stagnant because the value for money has eroded", according to a tourism expert.
And costs continue to go up as the Nassau Airport Development Company seeks to increase its fees by the end of the year.
D'Aguilar explained that: "If you're flying, we have built into our ticket prices all of the charges associated with entering the United States from The Bahamas."
These kinds of charges, he said, will be difficult to write off if The Bahamas is interested in decreasing the costs to passengers entering and leaving the country.
"I don't want to be flippant to the fact... we are very mindful of the charges involved," he said. "Yes, it is a substantial number."
Though D'Aguilar considers this country's fees "substantial", he said as a Caribbean destination "we are very competitive".
A tourism expert told Guardian Business recently that this country has "eroded its most significant advantage" -- its proximity to the United States -- by being one of the most expensive destinations in the region to get to.
The expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his job, told this paper that The Bahamas has the largest potential for tourism development in the region, but lamented that the archipelago has damaged its brand with high taxes and fees.
"The U.S. is the biggest economy in the world, which technically allows us to charge a lot more money for our products compared to people elsewhere, because people look at these vacations in terms of what the total cost is, not just simply what the room rate is or the all-inclusive rate," he said.
"Because of our location we should have absolutely the lowest cost to get from the United States to The Bahamas."

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Centreville residents express concerns during town hall meeting

July 20, 2017

Centreville constituents expressed concerns about the state of the economy and a possible credit rating downgrade during a recent town hall meeting hosted by Member of Parliament for Centreville Reece Chipman.
The more than 200 people who attended the town hall meeting were very much interested in understanding how they can better control their finances.
Chipman said that for his constituents, who for the most part represent a class of people struggling to make ends meet, the state of the economy means they will have to struggle to find jobs and put food on he table.
"They understand that they need to save once they get an opportunity to work," Chipman said. "A lot of them actually asked for more discussion as we move forward on finances, money, business and opportunity."
Chipman said he wanted to conduct an economic discussion that talked about issues from their perspective.
"We wanted it to be an economic discussion from their eyes, because to them the economy means 'am I able to afford my next meal', in some cases the economy means 'am I going to be able to find a job next week', the economy means 'do I have enough education to even go out there and get a job', so we were just trying to tie in all the ventricles at this point," he said.
The town hall meeting also addressed issues such as drainage, street lights, contractual workers, environment, mosquitoes and water pumps. Special projects such as "True Colors", dental, eye and music programs and the MP special award program for students, were also discussed.
"Many constituents were concerned about garbage collection, small business assistance, regularization of employment and national status, job opportunities and GED or continuing education," a press release on the event said.
"There was also a discussion on the Urban Renewal home repairs and summer programs. Constituents were informed of the many facilities in the area that should be committed to community development."
Former member of Parliament for the constituency and former Prime Minister Perry Christie was widely criticized for not doing enough for his constituents during his terms in office.

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'Service excellence trumps everything else', Bahamahost graduates told

July 20, 2017

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - Bahamahost held a graduation ceremony for 415 persons from Bahamas Immigration, Treasure Bay Casino, public service drivers, Bishop Michael Eldon High School, Sunland Baptist Academy, Grand Bahama Academy, Pineforest Academy, Jack Hayward High School and St. Georges High School at Calvary Temple on July 18.
The guest speaker for the event was Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation Travis Robinson. Also in attendance were Parliamentary Secretary for Information and Communication in the Office of the Prime Minister, Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe; Rev. Frederick McAlpine, member of Parliament for the Pineridge constituency; Director of Tourism for Grand Bahama Betty Bethel, and other tourism officials.
Robinson said a country that was number one in tourism should not be "reclaiming our culture of service excellence" as the theme of the graduation stated, but instead should be moving forward. He said with the large number of graduates, he was hopeful as more people are understanding the importance of the product.
"We need to master what we have, and that's customer service."
He continued, "When we think about the countries in the Caribbean, Jamaica and all of the likes, they have sun, sand and sea just like we do, and we celebrate that. Yes, we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And we talk about that everywhere we go. What is it that separates us from all of the other countries around the world that call themselves tourist destinations? Ladies and gentlemen, graduates, it is our hospitality. The way we greet and interact with our visitors on a daily basis."
The parliamentary secretary explained that the ministry will take an aggressive approach to educate the population that tourism is serious business, as seventy cents from every dollar that we spend comes from it.
Director of Tourism for Grand Bahama Betty Bethel spoke to the graduates about the importance of what she described as the foundational principles of any culture: honesty, integrity and pride.
"As you all know, our destination is in a state of emergency and you would also know that our government is working feverishly to turn it around. The role you will play when our destination has been fully restored again, as a vibrant center for tourism, will be to activate everything that you have learned recently in Bahamahost training, combined with the fundamental skills and attributes that speak to honesty, integrity and pride - the values that industry leaders look for first in all persons vying to be in our tourism sector.
Bethel encouraged the graduates to be honest with themselves when deciding a career in the tourism industry. "It is a selfless act when a desire to provide service excellence trumps everything else. If this is not you, then you do not belong in the service industry. And this is where honesty comes in. Please be honest with yourselves when choosing or continuing a career in the tourism industry."
She congratulated the graduates on their accomplishment and added that it comes at a time when all equipped, skilled and dedicated people in the tourism industry are needed in Grand Bahama.

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BOB's Summer Sponships to Impacet 8,000 Youth
BOB's Summer Sponships to Impacet 8,000 Youth

July 19, 2017

Bank of The Bahamas recently announced sponsorship support for a number of youth programmes that are helping to keep young people occupied, engaged and off the streets this summer...

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Minnis pledges ministers won't line own pockets
Minnis pledges ministers won't line own pockets

July 19, 2017

PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis assured Bahamians under his watch no minister of the Cabinet will seek lucrative contracts for themselves because they are "very sensible", as Baha Mar executives eye the completion of another phase of the West Bay Street project...

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BTC Sponsored Police Summer Camp in Full Swing
BTC Sponsored Police Summer Camp in Full Swing

July 19, 2017

Thousands of Students Turn up Nationwide to attend Camp...BTC is the official sponsor for the 2017 Royal Bahamas Police Force Summer Youth Camp. The organization is hosting camps throughout New Providence and the Family Islands...

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Baha Mar touts impact on tax revenues

July 19, 2017

Baha Mar continues to be confident in its ability to contribute more than $65 million in direct taxation to The Bahamas annually and more than $100 million annually in combined direct, indirect and induced tax revenues when it is fully operation next year, though industry experts are still not convinced.
In a press release issued yesterday following the visit of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to the property, Baha Mar stressed it will increase government tax revenues significantly, but that reality is contingent partly on the resort opening up new markets that The Bahamas has yet to fully tap, and industry experts are not convinced that will happen.
One expert told Guardian Business that Baha Mar is a case of introducing excess supply where there is little demand.
"Baha Mar is also poised to raise the profile of The Bahamas by growing the available room inventory by 40 percent in the luxury category," the Baha Mar release stated. "Once fully operational with stabilized business levels, Baha Mar anticipates directly employing more than 7,500 Bahamians."
Government has said very little about the property, instead shopping around the line that they want it to open as soon as possible so that Bahamians can benefit from the employment opportunities. However, with the property still unfinished, there are still questions as to whether the general contractor China Construction America (CCA) will meet its deadlines or if it has been updating the government on its progress.
"It is an incredible honor for Baha Mar and our associates to welcome Prime Minister Minnis and his parliament," said Graeme Davis, president of Baha Mar during the visit yesterday. "This is an extremely exciting time for Baha Mar and The Bahamas, and we're pleased to have the government's unwavering support as we continue to expand our offerings and build towards the opening of SLS Baha Mar in fall 2017, and Rosewood Baha Mar in spring 2018."
The opening of the Grand Hyatt, Baha Mar in April has given some momentum to the property, despite the
uncertainties. Baha Mar announced in the release that "next month hospitality and nightlife powerhouse SBE will debut the Katsuya and Cleo restaurants, and BOND nightclub will follow".
It also announced that it will soon begin a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, noting: "To kick off the global marketing campaign, Baha Mar launched a state-of-the-art website showcasing the magnificent Bahamas and the spectacular guest experiences that await at Baha Mar, including the B.E.A.C.H. Sanctuary and The Current art program. This fall, Baha Mar will launch a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, further raising the visibility of The Bahamas in the global marketplace."
Sources told Guardian Business that a rate war could be brewing on New Providence and Paradise Island as Baha Mar bids for visitors.

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Pensioners impacted by payments delay at BOB

July 19, 2017

Bank of The Bahamas (BOB) experienced a delay in distributing pension payments yesterday, which resulted in outrage from pensioners who formed a crowd outside the bank's main branch along Shirley Street.
Managing Director of BOB Renee Davis told Guardian Business that the problem resulted in pensioners being affected at the bank's New Providence, Grand Bahama and Family Island branches.
Pensioners were able to receive payments after an estimated three-hour delay.
Davis assured that it was not a matter of inadequate funds. The delay stemmed from a pension payments file not being sent to BOB on time.
Davis explained that Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is the institution that the National Insurance Board (NIB) uses to facilitate pension payments.
"The pension payment file was late; it did not come in time. There is no issue regarding funds on RBC's side, the bank's side or NIB," she said.
"We did not receive the file until 11:45 a.m. As a result, we were unable to pay the pensioners. BOB opens up on pension day at 8:30, to facilitate the pension line. Unfortunately, we were unable to do so."
Davis said customers were advised that the pension payments would be late, and it would be best to return after noon.
"The pensioners said they were not leaving," she said.
"Therefore, we tried to make them as comfortable as they could be.
"The ones who were elderly and who we felt were at risk due to the heat, we brought them inside and tried to accommodate as many as we could.
"The others we would not accommodate; we asked that they just remain outside. But the persons refused to leave until the payment was processed."
The bank accommodates 5,000 NIB pensioners.

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Biggity bistro focuses on local produce, products

July 19, 2017

Overlooking Bay Street is a cozy new bistro. The place feels nothing close to its name and the do it yourself decor is far from it as well - Biggity is what it's called, and it's an entrepreneur's dream come true.
Owner Amanda Ferguson though, suffered the same drawbacks this country's not-so-easy business processes can create. And she is finding creative ways to work with the fresh produce deficit Bahamians live with.
Ferguson began Biggity in Palmdale, selling only her signature candles and pepper sauce, but she craved more foot traffic and thus required a new business model when she discovered a space downtown. She could finally produce for local professionals downtown what she had longed wished
existed when she was a banker on Bay Street.
"A lot of people come here for lunch to just get away from the office environment, to sit in the corner and have a little unleaded sky juice or to just overlook Bay Street with a glass of wine, relax and go back to work," she said.
The reason Biggity exudes a cozy feel is the softness of the multiple hues of brown that line the walls. The walls have been covered with repurposed shipping pallets. Ferguson kept costs down by building and making most of the furniture in the bistro on her own.
"I had to be creative with the means that I had to build the place and the whole premise of the company was actually based around repurposing," she said.
"When we decided to build this it was 'how can I make the most out of the little that I have'. So we said 'what can we find and use and make that won't cost an arm and a leg?'. There are only three things in the store that we bought."
The move to Bay Street was not an easy one for Biggity. With high rent costs, difficult business process and myriad taxes to deal with, Ferguson said she incorporated the bistro in order to make the idea work. She now sells breakfast and lunch, and changes the lunch menu daily in order to keep up with what local produce is in season and available. Only when things she needs are not available locally does she opt for imported goods.
"All of our lettuce always comes from farms on the island and our chicken comes from Abaco," she said.
Ferguson said she does not see a return on her investment on the horizon soon, but she is confident Biggity will be on the uptick as she goes through each iteration of her business.
"I'm thankful at the end of the week when I have enough to pay salaries," she said.
"I'm just hoping for more local support... for people to understand what we're trying to do here. We're trying to provide local items and local food and a place for you to relax that's not like anywhere else and to know the story behind it - that it's hand-built by myself and a cousin of mine and a friend of mine."
Meantime, Ferguson is finding out that doing business in The Bahamas is not easy and the costs of operating are "astronomical".
"We're not a multimillion-dollar company yet... it's very difficult to turn a profit or to just meet expenses with the cost of living, that's where we find most of our issues," she said.

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Komolafe: Downgrade threat may 'motivate' implementation of structural, policy reforms

July 19, 2017

While international credit ratings agency Moody's recently indicated that it has placed The Bahamas' Baa3 rating on review for downgrade, Chairman of the Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) Emmanuel Komolafe said there are still a few factors that work to the country's advantage.
"The fact that we have never defaulted on our obligations and the percentage of our national debt that constitutes foreign or external debt," Komolafe told Guardian Business yesterday.
"Our external debt, as a percentage of GDP, stood at 26.6 percent as at the end of 2016, according to Moody's. This is a figure that we must continue to monitor."
Komolafe did acknowledge that the Moody's downgrade threat comes "as no real surprise", given the country's economic indicators over the years.
"The systemic issues that have driven multiple downgrades of The Bahamas' credit rating over the past decade or so are not shrouded in secrecy, but have been known to us for years," he said.
On the positive front, Komolafe said the threat of this downgrade may "motivate" The Bahamas to "implement structural and policy reforms necessary to create sustainable and inclusive growth".
"There is a school of thought that is of the view that a downgrade of The Bahamas' credit rating to junk status by Moody's may not be as significant, seeing that S&P had downgraded the nation's credit rating to junk status earlier," he said.
"However, should Moody's - another major international credit rating agency - take a similar rating action, it could be construed as confirmation, or validation, of S&P's assessment and rating decision."
Komolafe pointed out that the road out of junk status to investment grade for The Bahamas will not be easy and will require "some tough decisions" to be made.
And while there are various avenues of fiscal reform, Komolafe said increasing taxes would not be one of them.
"Increasing taxes is not the panacea, because we cannot focus solely on boosting government revenue by taking money out of the private sector and further reducing the disposable income of consumers in an economy with negative to no growth," he said.
He noted that the speed at which the country regains its investment status would be "solely dependent" on the extent to which the government and other key sectors of the economy are willing to go to ensure the country's recovery.
"In order to get out of this quagmire we find ourselves in, a multifaceted and deliberate approach will need to be adopted," he contended.

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