Business

Atlantis Resort Sued Bed Bugs Attacked...My Room Was Crawling

January 19, 2017

A woman is suing the famous Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas over horrific bites she says she got from a bed bug swarm, and she has creepy crawly video to back it up...

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Thousands apply to Baha Mar

January 18, 2017

Job application numbers at Baha Mar grew by almost 1,000 over 24 hours, spiking to 5,475 applications yesterday from Tuesday's number. The recruitment drive for locals-only jobs at Baha Mar began Monday.
Robert "Sandy" Sands, Baha Mar's senior vice president of administration and external affairs, told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that the resort is taking applications for positions across the board in "multiple disciplines". The Guardian understands that this first wave of applicants will be all Bahamians.
Sands said the recruitment process will be ongoing, especially as the mega resort development will be opened in phases. However, he said a recruitment goal has to be met before the April 21 soft opening deadline, "and then we will continue the process as we work toward filling other vacancies in different phases of the phased opening".
It was revealed after Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE), the owners of the property, reached a deal with the Bahamas government that the company would focus on opening and operating the casino hotel, the convention center and the golf course before phasing in the other properties. One of those properties is slated to be a Rosewood hotel; the brand is owned by CTFE.
In the meantime, recruitment professionals will be wading through the thousands of applications they have received before arriving to the call-back stage of the recruitment process.
Sands said he could not put a timeline on the process, but pointed out that Baha Mar is keeping a keen eye on its April deadline, which is less than 100 days away.
Once the recruitment phase is completed, Baha Mar will begin staff training. Sands told The Nassau Guardian on Monday that the training will be different "this time around" from the training received by the initial Baha Mar recruits three years ago.
"We will reinitiate the on-property training for the refreshment and upgrading of skills for individuals who will be hired to work within the casino, and then as we bring the brands on, in particular the Grand Hyatt, once that management agreement has been finalized, then we will start brand-specific training," said Sands.

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CIBC FirstCaribbean's non-performing loans down 27 percent

January 18, 2017

Amid a challenged economy, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank (Bahamas) Limited (FCIB) recorded a decline of 27 percent in non-performing loans for the fiscal year ending October 31, 2016.
In the bank's unaudited financial statements for the year published yesterday, Managing Director Marie Rodland-Allen provided a review on key statistics.
The review pointed out that demand for credit was better than the previous fiscal year, but is "generally expected to follow the lagging economic conditions".
"Despite the slow pace of economic recovery and uneven investment activity across the region, productive loans grew 11 percent over last year, while non-performing loans declined by 27 percent, together reflecting the bank's priority to grow its business with a sound risk management focus.
"Both retail and wholesale banking segments produced strong productive loan growth of three percent and 20 percent, respectively, as origination activity outpaced the prior year," said Rodland-Allen.
FCIB's net income was $70.6 million for the period, which is a seven percent increase from the prior fiscal year.
"Lower loan loss impairment expense was the main contributor to this result, as the bank benefited from increased loan recoveries and an improved loss experience," said FCIB.
Loan loss impairment was lower by $3.5 million when compared to the previous fiscal year's $14.9 million.
The bank also pointed out that non-productive loan balances were "substantially" reduced from last year.
"Additionally, significant effort has been placed on strengthening credit quality within our total loan portfolio," the bank continued.
FCIB recorded an increase of revenue by $1.1 million. However it was acknowledged that, "Interest margin pressure still persists with the pace of uplift slower than expected."
"Operating expenses of $91.2 million were in line with prior years' expenses. The bank is committed to discretionary expense control and strives to maintain a balance between the investment in its network, products and people," the review stated.
Rodland-Allen said, "While the economic outlook for the region remains modest, we are positive about the bank's future and believe we are well-positioned for sustainable growth and improved shareholder returns."
A final dividend of 15 cents per share will be made on January 30, 2017.

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Memories Grand Bahama still closed since passage of Hurricane Matthew

January 18, 2017

Memories Grand Bahama Beach & Casino Resort remains closed since the passage of Hurricane Matthew, but discussions are underway to finding a "swift resolution" to open the resort.
In the interim, Guardian Business understands that the resort may have had difficulties receiving an insurance payout to perform repairs, which led to the delay in reopening.
A source, who spoke under condition of anonymity because negotiations are still ongoing, revealed that the insurers of the property have been slow to release the funds to repair damage from the hurricane. Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa is the owner of the property.
Memories' managing company, Blue Diamond, told Guardian Business yesterday in a statement that its parent company, Sunwing Travel Group, remains committed to operating in Grand Bahama and continues to support the destination through airlift and tour operator support.
"We are in discussions with the parties involved, including government, to find a swift resolution to reopen Memories Grand Bahama so that Sunwing can return to its previous level of support, which had such a profound and positive impact on the island's tourism revenue and employment in recent years," Blue Diamond said.
Over the past few days, rumors surfaced that
Memories was allegedly trying to pull out of its hotel operations in Grand Bahama. However, Memories dispelled those rumors in its statement.
Prime Minister Perry Christie previously announced that Hutchison Whampoa had hired a company to "superintend the exploration as to who would wish to buy" Hutchison's hotel properties on Grand Bahama, which are Lighthouse Pointe, the Grand Lucayan Resort and Memories Grand Bahama.
Democratic National Alliance (DNA) candidate for Pineridge and spokesperson on labor Leslie Lightbourne pointed out that employees have been told the property would reopen in May 2017.

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CFAL: Focus on taxation while excluding fiscal austerity not working

January 18, 2017

CFAL has weighed in on The Bahamas' most recent sovereign credit rating downgrade by Standard and Poor's (S&P), and agrees that the government has a long way to go to improve The Bahamas' fiscal standing before it can bring the economy back up to investment grade.
In its Weekly Market Recap for the second week of January, CFAL recognized the veracity in S&P's reasoning when it decided to drop The Bahamas' investment status to sub-investment grade, better known as "junk" status.
According to the CFAL break down, the government's overall revenue growth has softened, despite its collection of $1.1 billion in value-added tax between January 2015 and September 2016. The financial firm also noted that because the country has had such an extended period of low growth and high government spending, it could be some time before the country's debt-to-GDP ratio returns to an acceptable level.
"Improvements in the country's public debt ratio will require a bold commitment on the government's part to implement fiscal reforms that will spur economic growth and fiscal stimulus," CFAL said.
"The focus on increased taxation while excluding fiscal austerity is not working, as unemployment remains relatively high and wage growth has stalled."
CFAL stated that because of the "globalization of markets and cross border investments" The Bahamas must pay special attention to its sovereign credit rating by major credit ratings firms such as S&P's and Moody's. Moody's has yet to release its latest assessment of The Bahamas' economy.
CFAL also suggested that government's proclamations of controlling the country's debt and deficit are not enough when watchdog credit ratings agencies are paying close attention.
"With The Bahamas' growing foreign debt stock, it has become increasingly important for the country's credit quality to be assessed by the major credit ratings agencies," CFAL said. "Merely proclaiming aggressive debt and deficit targets in successive budget communications will not favorably impact the country's sovereign debt rating."
CFAL insisted that the government should focus its efforts on producing "tangible" results and credible numbers support, firstly through "sound economic policies".
"This will go a long way in reversing the country's sovereign debt rating decline and return it to investment grade," CFAL said.

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BTVI, U.S. Embassy strengthening alliance

January 18, 2017

Officials of the United States Embassy and the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) recently engaged in a productive dialogue. U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Penny Rechkemmer and Education and Cultural Specialist Chanelle Cleare, met with BTVI President Dr. Robert W. Robertson and a few members of his senior management team at the institution's Old Trail Road campus, where they discussed areas of interest such as educational exchanges, college and university visitations, in addition to grant and speaker opportunities. Rechkemmer noted that education is one of the ways to build a strong bilateral relationship between countries. Meanwhile, Dr. Robertson expressed his openness to BTVI forging closer ties with the embassy, with the view of deepening mutually beneficial cooperation. Embassy officials toured the campus following the meeting.

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Bahamas Customs to celebrate International Customs Day

January 18, 2017

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - Community involvement, honoring long-serving officers, educating and advising stakeholders, and sporting events are among the list of activities planned for the celebration of the 28th International Customs Day.
During a press conference at the C.A. Smith Building yesterday, Superintendent of Customs Larry Bodie said the day will be celebrated under the theme, "Data Analysis for Effective Border Management".
"Consistent with this theme, Bahamas Customs has implemented the Electronic Data Interface (EDI) for several years whereby we are engaged in the automated customs clearance of goods. However, to ensure greater level of efficiency, effectiveness, and adoption of best practices, our department is engaged and is projected to implement a new electronic system called Electronic Single Window within the next 12 to 18 months, which will enable Customs to leverage data to make informed decisions, especially given the sophisticated and evolving challenges that our department faces every day." said Smith.
He continued: "Data analysis can propel Customs to new levels of success in both compliance and facilitation by enabling it to improve risk management which supports enhanced detection of irregularities, illicit consignments, the suspicious movement of people and financial flows, and the facilitation of legitimate trade; learn from historical activity to predict trader or passenger behavior; and engage with other government agencies to leverage their experience and expertise."
In honor of International Customs Day, an awards ceremony will be held for officers and staff from Grand Bahama, Abaco and Bimini who have completed 40, 30 and 20 years of service. Four individuals will receive the WCO (World Customs Organization) Certification of Merit Awards. The ceremony will be held on Thursday, January 26 at 7:00 pm at the Bahamas Union of Teachers Complex at Pioneers Loop.
Other events include a church service at the Church of the Ascension on Beach Way Drive at 9:00 a.m. on January 22, where Customs retirees will also be in attendance. Customs revenue officers will assist Bartlett Hill Primary School with relocation and setting up of classrooms at 10:00 a.m. on January 26, and on January 27, a Customs exhibition will be held in the foyer of the C.A. Smith Complex from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. High school students, especially those from grades 10 through 12, and the general public are urged to attend.
The World Customs Organization (WCO) first proclaimed International Customs Day on January 26, 1983, to honor and recognize the achievements of customs officers and non-uniformed staff in their various duties.

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Bahamas Red Cross Society Award Ceremony for Businesses that have Supporte The Red Cross Ball

January 18, 2017

Governor General Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling hosted an Award Ceremony and Reception at Government House, January 12, 2017 for Platinum sponsors of the upcoming Red Cross Ball. The ceremony was held in recognition of six commercial businesses that have supported the Bahamas Red Cross Society over many years...

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VAT Filing Payment Deadline Has Now Changed
VAT Filing & Payment Deadline Has Now Changed

January 18, 2017

The Department of Inland Revenue wishes to remind all taxpayers that the deadline for VAT filing and payment has now changed...

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GB Chamber starts new year with Ministry for Grand Bahama visit

January 18, 2017

Newly elected executives of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) paid a courtesy call on Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville last week as part of their 2017 mandate to foster open communication between the GBCC and Grand Bahama's key stakeholders...

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Number of Baha Mar applicants alarmingly low, warns Lloyd
Number of Baha Mar applicants alarmingly low, warns Lloyd

January 18, 2017

FORMER Baha Mar Leadership Development Institute Executive Director Jeffery Lloyd yesterday called reports that an estimated 1,500 people applied for or inquired about jobs at the once stalled Cable Beach resort on the first day of the process "alarming" and "significantly low".

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Sealy: NHI will lead to increased healthcare system costs

January 18, 2017

While asserting the need for a National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme in The Bahamas, CEO of Doctors Hospital Charles Sealy admitted that its implementation will lead to a rise in costs for the healthcare system as a result of increased technology usage and the current health of the country's population.
Sealy told Guardian Business that NHI Bahamas is something that should have been done "years ago".
"Yes, there is going to be increased cost. Technology is one of the factors. The other that is contributing is the health of our population.
"We have a sick population. And the sicknesses that we have in our particular population on this side of the world are very costly, especially if you respond to them later on," said Sealy.
The third phase of NHI, primary care benefits, is expected to be implemented in the early part of 2017.
Sealy explained that primary care could help to reduce the cost of healthcare for patients by making them aware of any illnesses at an earlier stage.
He added that healthcare providers have been treating patients at later stages of their illnesses that are "very expensive" to manage.
"However, you also have now with the introduction of technology, the cost that comes with that. That's an increased cost to the health system, all health systems," Sealy continued.
Nevertheless, Sealy said he believes that Doctor's Hospital is "sufficiently ready" to be involved in NHI and primary care at no extra cost.
"In terms of the staffing, that is in place. We also have, as far as I am concerned, the infrastructure from a technological and services standpoint to be able to meet the demands there.
"I am sufficiently satisfied that we didn't have to do anything additional in terms of an increase in cost.
"There is an increase of information and acquisition of knowledge that becomes a necessity. We want to make sure our team is up to speed.
"We do look from the standpoint of getting involved in primary care; we want to access additional facilities across the islands, and that is a cost that has yet to be determined.
"As far as preparation at this juncture, the only thing we are doing more than anything else is preparing the team, passing on the information as we get it from the government," said Sealy.

Health expenditure
Sealy also commented on the overall impact of government health expenditure on gross domestic product (GDP) as a percentage, which remains relatively high in The Bahamas.
With the introduction of NHI, Sealy was asked if there would be a decrease in that percentage over the next five to 10 years.
"You are probably not going to see it that quickly because you are going to be managing illnesses that are current," he said, projecting a reduction in health expenditure would come about in "more like 10 years".
"I think we have to look at it from the quality of health for our people and the education of our people. This move through NHI is going to create more awareness and more information," he said.
"There are a number of islands where certain health topics are taboo. So I think this awareness is going to make it a much better place for us to provide healthcare."

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IHIMS launched no final implementation date

January 18, 2017

There is no final implementation date for the integrated health information management system (IHIMS), which will automate several functions within the public healthcare system at a cost of $18.39 million.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA), announced the "design start" of the IHIMS during a launch event at St. Joseph's Parish Hall.
In August of last year, the PHA contracted Allscripts Healthcare Solutions in partnership with Infor Lawson to provide proprietary software for an IHIMS.
Allscripts Liaison Executive Patrick Dougherty told Guardian Business that, "It is a staged approach, and because there is so much content to build, we haven't set a final date."
Given the imminent launch of National Health Insurance (NHI), Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez previously said an aggressive plan will be put in place to ensure the implementation of IHIMS in the shortest time frame.
Dougherty added that over the next 12 to 18 months, a series of events will take place in order to build on content and design for the software.
He also said that a pilot test for the new system will be performed within the 12 to 18-month period.
During his contribution at the event, Dougherty said over the next few months, the system would be designed, built and ultimately validated.
The new system will replace the PHA's current Keane Insight System and integrated public health information system (IPHIS) system, which is operated by the Department of Public Health.
Some functions that would be automated as a result of the IHIMS include patient access and identity management, patient accounting, health information management, materials management, general financials including supply chain management modules and the emergency department information system.

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Ocean Terraces back in court in six months

January 18, 2017

Even as the West Bay Street property now known as Ocean Terraces finally joins the real estate listings of upscale properties on New Providence, the fight in court over two of the property's units and more than $2 million will continue in six month's time.
Only last week Ocean Terraces developers Sterling Bank (Bahamas) Ltd. opened three units up to the public for an open house to launch the prime property, which had remained a shuttered shell for almost 10 years. The property, almost since its inception, has been mired in litigation. It continues even as Sterling Bank (Bahamas) Ltd. has brought the property to market.
Meantime court documents revealed that first plaintiff, Leo International Holdings Ltd., and second plaintiff, Allure (Bahamas) Ltd., are fighting for the return of a collective $2,117,783, damages for trespassing, fraudulent misrepresentation, interests, costs and "such further or other relief as the honorable court deems just".
Leo claimed that it had purchased two units from North Andros Assets Limited (NAAL), which owned the property under a debenture with Cordell Funding LLLP, for just over $2 million. Allure then claimed to have spent almost $100,000 on furniture to outfit the two units.
However, when NAAL allegedly defaulted on its loan obligations to Cordell it was claimed that NAAL entered into agreements with Leo and Allure without the knowledge of Cordell.
After obtaining vacant possession of the property, Cordell sold the property to The Palm West Bay "by its power of sale as contained in the debenture".
In a statement of claim, it was argued that NAAL, "always knew that under the provisions of the mortgage, construction and loan agreement, they were expressly precluded from, inter alia, encumbering the said property or entering into any partnerships without the written consent of the second defendant (Cordell); of which the terms and agreements were not disclosed to the first plaintiff (Leo)".
Now, the debacle over the NAAL deal with Leo and Allure has pulled Sterling Asset Management Limited and Ocean Terraces by Sterling Bank (Bahamas) Ltd. into litigation, even as it is set to finally get the property to market and occupied.

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Study recommends restructuring of healthcare sector's governing bodies

January 18, 2017

The structure of The Bahamas' governing bodies in the healthcare sector will have to change if the country is to effectively and efficiently implement universal healthcare (UHC), a study done by the National Health Systems Strengthening Committee suggests.
The study, which was prepared in 2014 but not circulated until recently, outlines key features the authors of the paper recommend the government tackle as it prepares to implement national health insurance.
While the study suggests revamping the country's legislation on healthcare would be one of the top priorities, it also suggested restructuring of the healthcare sector's governing bodies would be prudent in the near-term, as opposed to a legislative overhaul.
"The committee has concluded that although legislative reform will be necessary it would be best to adopt administrative mechanisms that improve the functioning of the Ministry of Health in the initial stages," the report states.
"Such an approach would ensure that legislative changes would be driven by pragmatism and lessons learned from experience on the ground.
"The Bahamas, like its global counterparts, continues to grapple with health system performance," said the report.
"Many of our existing challenges relate to deficits in the governance of the system, services delivery and resource allocation (human and otherwise) that must be addressed to implement UHC in The Bahamas.
"The current healthcare organizational model is characterized as being centralized, predominantly curative and disease-centered. However, the medical literature suggests that such systems are inefficient, offer relatively small gains which are spread unevenly across the population, and are financially unsustainable."
The study also found that The Bahamas does not focus enough on preventative care and has adopted a "disease-based approach to healthcare" that many healthcare systems across the world are moving away from.

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Sandals Royal Bahamian welcomes travel agents for event-filled showcase

January 18, 2017

Still glowing from a multimillion-dollar refurbishment and grand relaunch, Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort & Offshore Island welcomed over 150 home-based travel agents from all over North America to showcase its Nassau property and learn more about the luxury travel brand this past weekend.
The guests were treated to tours of the historic property, as well as culinary delights offered by 10 restaurants featuring five-star global fare. The travel agents also participated in workshops geared at improving selling skills and learned tips highlighting unique features of the brand and The Bahamas.
Karen Baker, a romance travel specialist, commented, "The private island is a huge selling point for Royal Bahamian and I know there were agents who really got the chance to experience and enjoy it for the first time during this conference. Seeing the recent renovations and upgrades at the resort was a plus as well. I had the pleasure of staying in the Royal Village and I loved it. It felt like a completely different experience from my previous resort visits. I also toured the village rooms and I love the modern upgrades and gorgeous new bathrooms."
The charitable arm of the Sandals Resorts, the Sandals Foundation also had the opportunity to educate the travel agents and bring back the award-winning choir and rake 'n' scrape band from Gerald Cash Primary School to perform, much to the delight of the guests. Gary Sadler, vice president, sales, Unique Vacations/Sandals Resorts said, "We were very much looking forward to showcasing the talent of some of our Bahamian youth as a taste of what the islands have to offer. Sandals Royal Bahamian has built a great relationship with Gerald Cash Primary, and it's reflective of the relationships that we're building in all of the communities in all of the regions Sandals and Beaches Resorts are located."

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Milo Butler Backs Bahamas Red Cross and HeadKnowles Hurricane Matthew Relief Efforts

January 18, 2017

Bahamians still impacted by the effects of Hurricane Matthew will benefit from a recent donation by Milo Butler Distributors. The wholesale grocer partnered with the Bahamas Red Cross and the HeadKnowles Hurricane Relief Group giving food supplies valued at $10,000 to assist with continued relief efforts...

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Power outage for more than 12 hours
Power outage for more than 12 hours

January 18, 2017

SOME residents in western New Providence were without power for more than 12 hours yesterday, as Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd battled a "substantial" problem at its Windsor Field substation...

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BPL struggles to restore power to western New Providence
BPL struggles to restore power to western New Providence

January 17, 2017

RESIDENTS in western New Providence have been without power for more than 12 hours on Tuesday as Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd (BPL) battles a "substantial" problem at its Windsor Field substation...

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Remarks by MSC Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco at Ocean Cay Groundbreaking Ceremonies

January 17, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, Honourable Prime Minister, esteemed members of the Government … I think that I can now safely say: Dear friends...

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